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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
peopleComedian launches stinging attack on PM
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
News
Andy Murray shakes hands after defeating Andreas Seppi of Italy in the third round of Wimbledon, Saturday 4 July, 2015
Wimbledon
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
News
Yoko Ono at the Royal Festival Hall for Double Fantasy Live
people'I wont let him destroy memory of John Lennon or The Beatles'
News
Could Greece leave the EU?
news
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: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'