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
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before