How to trap a family without going ape

A week in the life of IQBAL MALIK, MONKEY PROTECTOR

IT HAS been monkey business as usual this week for Iqbal Malik, New Delhi's most prominent primatologist. This scientist watches out for India's red-rumped rhesus monkeys with as much passion as Jane Goodall champions chimpanzees. Dr Malik's biggest challenge is to prevent conflict between monkeys - who are considered sacred by Hindus - and humans. Almost 60 per cent of India's monkey population now lives alongside people in crowded urban areas.

"These monkeys deserve peaceful co-existence from animals who are supposed to be their descendants," said Dr Malik. "First, Indians treat them as gods, and then as pests. It's just not fair. Fear is a normal response. Rhesus are the fiercest of all the primates in Asia - excluding humans, of course. They have the largest canine teeth. So intimidation is what they do best." She rolled up her sleeve to show a lotus pattern of toothmarks on her forearm.

Educating human communities about monkey behaviour, and vice versa, is her job. If it proves impossible for the groups to get along, she relocates the monkey troops to a more isolated environment.

Last Friday, Dr Malik supervised the transfer of 40 wild monkeys from nets to temporary cages. Complaints came from a military base: aggressive monkeys had been messing up the mess hall and Dr Malik's volunteer team, Vatavaran,was asked to help. They located a greenbelt far enough away from the base where the monkeys could be freed. Getting them there without cruelty was tricky; persuading them to remain required expertise.

Early last Friday, Usman and Kuber, who have worked with Dr Malik for a decade, buried a big pentagonal net in the ground with considerable stealth. Ten observers had been watching monkeys make mischief at the base and worked out their group dynamics. To capture an entire family group at one go, Usman had to yank the trigger string at precisely the right moment. "We cannot ever let monkeys watch our preparations or they'll catch on. Monkey see, monkey do," said Dr Malik.

Dimming the light by covering the cages with blankets was a priority all during Saturday, when the colony of monkeys was shifted in a convoy to Zakira forest, less than 30km away. "Darkness calms them and the monkeys hug each other for comfort," Dr Malik explained.

They arrived at the forest at dusk, when they were most likely to settle. The primates soon learnt to forage in this green cover. When their cages were first undraped, 40 monkeys blinked and glanced around. Too wary to explore the new forest in the dark, they slept behind bars by choice. But within 36 hours, they were scampering in the trees.

While some monkey troops take up to four days to adjust to a new habitat, these clearly felt at home by mid- morning. Dr Malik drove home with a grin.

On Tuesday, she received a telephone call saying monkeys were running amok in a school cafeteria, and a call from a pensioner who wanted to evict a fierce monkey from his bathroom. "I tell people never to look monkeys in the eye. It's hostile. Avoid leaving food out. If ignoring them won't make the monkeys leave, hit the ground with a stick, set off a firecracker or get a fake snake to frighten them."

On Thursday, Dr Malik phoned the constipated pensioners and found him triumphant. He got rid of the monkey in his bathroom at last.

Jan McGirk

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Reprographics Operator

£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher

£120 - £145 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher X2 Materni...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer / Systems Administrator

£25000 - £32500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in SW London, this compan...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee