India and Monkeys: theory

In India, it is illegal to kill monkeys. The Hindu religion reveres them as sacred creatures. Temples to the monkey god Hanuman abound, and earthly mortal monkeys are seen as his avatars.


India and Monkeys: practice

But monkeys are actually far from saintly, whatever their divine connections. In many regions, they live in and around towns and cities, and their interactions with the human citizens have proved problematic. Monkeys have attacked people, biting them and sometimes causing serious injury. Acts of vandalism are more common- lawns have been ripped up, government ministries invaded, and flowerpots smashed. Women have had their handbags snatched, and schoolchildren have had their lunchboxes knicked.  In 2007, S.S. Bajwa, the mayor of Delhi was killed when a gang of monkeys bundled him from the terrace of his home.

The most troublesome monkey species is the pink-faced rhesus.

It is feared that (human) criminals have trained monkeys to rob and mug. It seems that eventually the monkeys rebelled against their Fagins and turned freelance.

Some Solutions

Some attempts have been made to stem the tide of monkey crime. In Himachal Pradesh, a sterilisation campaign was introduced to reduce the numbers of urban monkeys. Monkeys have been banned from New Delhi, and large langur monkeys have been trained to guard important buildings. (Sounds a bit like using monkeys to fight monkeys). But none of these measures have solved the problem.

Lock 'em up, and throw away the key!

So now, in Patiala in Punjab, a monkey prison has been constructed. Particularly troublesome monkeys are caught using tranquilliser darts and cages, and incarcerated in a large single cell with 12 foot high walls. They are named after the site of their arrest: Sanam Monkey, Ayurvedic College Monkey or Jalandhar Monkey.

Although at least two of the primate inmates have been released after exhibiting good behaviour for several months, most are expected to be "lifers".

Some protesters have claimed that it's cruel to keep the monkeys locked away, and that rehabilitation programmes could be more effective. Once such is Maneka Gandhi, a noted animal rights activist and daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi.


You might be interested to contrast this approach to monkey justice with the one taken in Hartlepool and with the one in New Zealand, where measures to give chimpanzees and gorillas human rights were debated.


Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.