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Court Reprimands New Delhi Over Monkeys

The Associated Press
Thursday, December 7, 2006; 4:27 PM

NEW DELHI -- A top court reprimanded authorities in the Indian capital for failing to stop hundreds of monkeys from terrifying residents, news reports said Thursday.

As forest cover around New Delhi has shrunk, the city has struggled with a growing simian population. Government buildings, temples and many residential neighborhoods are overrun by hundreds of Rhesus macaques. The animals will occasionally snatch food from unsuspecting passers-by and even bite them.

"If you can't control the monkeys, what can you do?" the Delhi High Court acerbically asked representatives of the various municipal authorities in a ruling responding to a petition filed by the harassed residents of a posh residential neighborhood. The court asked authorities to explain "what measures were being formulated to find a permanent solution to the monkey menace in the capital."

City authorities weren't immediately available for comment.

Over the years city authorities have tried various methods to deal with the problem. They've used monkey catchers who use langurs _ a larger and fiercer kind of simian _ to scare or catch the monkeys.

In 2002 the court asked that wildlife and municipal officials take measures to make sure that the problem was eradicated or at least significantly minimized, but the problem has persisted.

Earlier this year the country's Supreme Court ordered wildlife authorities to transport some 300 macaques from New Delhi to the dense jungles of Madhya Pradesh state. The government of that state was to receive $54,000 from the federal government to cover the cost of reintroducing the monkeys to the wild,

Other efforts by animal welfare agencies have been defeated, in part, by Hindus who believe that monkeys are manifestations of the monkey god Hanuman. The animals are often fed bananas and peanuts, which encourages them to frequent public places.

© 2006 The Associated Press