Monkeys To Provide Simian Security In New Delhi

Concerned that visitors and athletes could be bothered by rhesus macaques and other small monkeys that roam through New Delhi, authorities have brought about 10 langurs — larger, often terrestrial monkeys — to the site of the Commonwealth Games this month. Human handlers will control the langurs, which are said to be good at chasing smaller monkeys away.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

To India now, where throngs of visitors are expected to attend this Sunday's opening of the Commonwealth Games. Hosting the Olympic-style contest for countries associated with the former British Empire costs billions of dollars, and much of that money goes towards security, including boots on the ground, equipment and monkeys.

From New Delhi, Elliot Hannon reports.

ELLIOT HANNON: As New Delhi readies itself for the games, security is tight. But even with a hundred thousand officers on the city's streets, there's one threat they haven't been able to solve: the city's monkey problem.

In New Delhi, some 5,000 Rhesus macaques monkeys live side by side with residents, and that can cause problems. So the government decided on a short-term fix during the games, says Davinder Prashad, who's in charge of the city's monkey management effort.

Mr. DAVINDER PRASHAD: (Through Translator) The monkeys are a hazard because they can bite or attack people. To avoid these situations and to keep the participants and audience safe, we have deployed langur monkeys.

(Soundbite of langur monkeys)

HANNON: Hired teams of larger, more menacing long tailed langur monkeys have been sent to problem areas.

Outside of the boxing stadium, a team of four langurs stand ready to scare off potential primate mischief-makers. To make sure these hired guns don't run wild, human handlers keep them on leashes. Monkeys in New Delhi have long been a problem. They are considered holy by Hindus, and worshippers at the city's temples have taken to feeding them. Efforts to control the population haven't produced lasting results. But the langurs are a quick fix, says Prashad.

Mr. PRASHAD: (Through Translator) It is very effective. We tried it in the past and the monkeys are scared of langurs, so they won't go near places where they spot one.

HANNON: At the moment, the langur security detail's shift is nine to five. But, Prashad says, like the rest of the city, once the games begin, they'll be expected to work overtime.

For NPR News, I'm Elliot Hannon in New Delhi.

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