Commonwealth organisers face plague of snakes and monkeys

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The Independent Online

Snakes, stray dogs and monkeys are the latest problem for officials rushing to complete work at the athletes' village in Delhi.

As scores of participants yesterday moved into the controversy-struck complex, it emerged that an excess of wildlife was creating fresh headaches. Over the weekend, there had been complaints about stray dogs in the village and one South African athlete reported finding a large snake. Another snake, a 10ft long poisonous cobra, was found in the tennis stadium, while monkeys are commonplace around many of the venue sites.

Delhi's residents are used to such encounters but Games officials are keen to ensure the local fauna does not become a problem for visitors.

Reports yesterday said officials had hired a number of snake charmers to work around the village, trapping snakes for the sum of 1,000 rupees (£14) for each reptile. An animal rescue organisation, Wildlife SOS, is also working to catch snakes. At the same time, officials have increased the number of langur monkey handlers working around the Games site. Delhi is besieged by hordes of simian hooligans in the form of common rhesus monkeys who clamber over buildings and pester people, but which are scared of the larger langur monkeys.

Around 40 langur handlers are now to be employed at various venues. "These langurs will be deployed at strategic points that will scare away the monkeys," an official told the Hindustan Times newspaper.

Officials are also closing gaps in fences and walls around the village complex to keep out stray dogs.

Workers are labouring around the clock to complete facilities and accommodation. Delhi's chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, who was given responsibility for overseeing the readying of the village, said it would be completed by tomorrow.

Members of the English team, who had been staying in hotels in the city, moved into the village yesterday after last-minute work was done.