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
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
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

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering