Delhi's troublesome monkeys roughed up by bounty-hunters

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The Independent Online

When the order went out to round up Delhi's trouble-making monkeys, little thought was given to the methods that might be used. Now it appears that some bounty-hunters drawn to the task have been more than a little rough with the miscreants in their custody.

Animal rights campaigners say more and more of the monkeys captured and brought to the Asola-Bhatti sanctuary on the edge of the city are showing signs of serious injury. This week, one monkey had to be taken to a charitable animal clinic for treatment to a wound in its shoulder.

"The monkeys are being caught in a horrible way," said Dr Gautman Borat, a vet and founder of the Friendicoes animal charity, which treated the injured animal. "They are caught with ropes and tongs and the nets are not used properly. There is no proper training."

The Indian capital's 20,000 monkeys have been blamed for damage to buildings and attacks on people. The real problem is not the monkeys, but that as Delhi has expanded, so have clashes between animals and humans. Efforts to capture the animals and move them to the sanctuary gathered pace last year after the death of the city's deputy mayor, Sawinder Singh Bajwa, in a fall from his balcony while trying to ward off a monkey.

City officials have recruited extra monkey-catchers from the south of India and pay them 450 rupees (£4.50) for each animal delivered to the sanctuary. Since the operation was started last April, more than 3,700 monkeys have been rounded up.

But Sonya Ghosh, a member of an oversight committee and founder of an animal rights group, Citizens for the Welfare and Protection of Animals, has alleged that monkeys being delivered to the sanctuary show signs of mistreatment. She has written to the city's chief wildlife warden demanding that catchers who are found to be injuring the animals be sacked.

"Nobody monitors the monkey-catchers or the methods they use," Ms Ghosh said. "No one has the time or the energy to accompany them and keep an eye on them."

An official with the forest department suggested the problem was not an isolated one, and that veterinary staff were not reporting the scale of the problem. He told the Times of India that up to a dozen injured monkeys were being handed over every month.

"The monkeys are delivered to us late in the night so we do not notice the wounds," he said. "The number of injured monkeys brought to Asola has gone up in the past few months and veterinary doctors have signed entries claiming that the monkeys were in a healthy condition."

The chief warden, DM Shukla, who was unavailable for comment, has called a meeting with the monkey catchers to demand they take more care.