Snakes, marauding monkeys menace Games

By Rahul Bedi

Fierce langur monkeys and snake charmers have been deployed at several Commonwealth Games venues across New Delhi to try to protect athletes and delegates from simian and reptile attack.

Delhi's municipal authorities, long battling the city's unending monkey menace, have dragooned an army of 40 grey langurs, to scare off hordes of mischievous and belligerent rhesus monkeys.

A band of snake charmers, armed with sonorous pipes, have been stationed at the athletes' Games village in an area heavily inhabited by snakes.

The reptiles, many of them highly poisonous, have been on the move after their ground holes were filled with water during heavy monsoon rains over the past two months.

Two snakes surfaced at the weekend, spreading panic among athletes - one in the quarters of the South African contingent at the Games village and a 1m-long cobra at the tennis stadium.

But more than snakes, marauding monkeys are menacing the main swimming Talkatora Stadium and the Shvaji Stadium, a practice venue for hockey.

Environmentalists said many trees around these stadiums have been felled, forcing the already highly urbanised monkeys to roam further into built up areas, harassing, scaring and even biting people - especially women and children.

Delhi's monkey population, while a menace, is protected by residents. Many people feed the monkeys believing it will bring them favour with Hindu gods.

Anyone trying to trap or scare off monkeys is frequently beaten up or chased away, and killing them is out of the question - anyone trying to do so would be lynched.

Novel methods of chasing them away with ultra-high-frequency loudspeakers, scaring them by employing langurs, deporting them to neighbouring states or transporting them to India's only monkey jail in Patiala, 350km north of Delhi, have also failed.

For nearly four decades monkeys have held sway in New Delhi's corridors of power and spread mayhem across the campus of the nearby All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India's flagship research institution.

Powerful policymakers walk warily down passageways in North and South Blocks that house among others the Prime Minister's office and the Defence and Home Ministries, for fear of being set upon by monkeys, concealed in niches in the sandstone buildings built by the Colonial administration.

Tough wire mesh stretches across the windows of the Indian Army chief's office to protect the head of the world's third-largest and nuclear-armed military from monkeys.

The monkeys made their presence felt during a news conference with former United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld near the Army chief's office some years ago by hanging from window ledges and screeching at the gathering below.

- NZ Herald

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