Some monkeys push back

It seems scientists at Oregon Health & Science University have cloned monkey embryos to create embryonic stem cells. “Breakthrough or an ethical nightmare?” asks Nov. 15. We say it is far worse than an “ethical nightmare,” which implies some ambiguity. At risk of loaning legitimacy to the religious right (who we disagree with about almost everything, abortion first and foremost), we say it is a moral abombination—a further step towards elite technocratic colonization of of the very mechanisms of human evolution, and the ultimate abolition of humanity—a destiny that the sinister-wacky “trans-humanists” are hubristic (and warped) enough to welcome. So it is a comfort to find that right in the heart of New Delhi, troupes of monkeys not only remain intransigently outside human control—but are even actively resisting the human system. From Reuters, Nov. 14:

Monkeys shock New Delhi
Marauding simians pushed from forests into cities are on a collision course with humans

NEW DELHI—First it was the death of the Indian capital’s deputy mayor, who took a fatal fall after fighting with monkeys on the balcony of his home late last month.

Then, 25 residents were bitten, scratched and mauled by a lone monkey that went on the rampage in the capital last weekend.

The monkey reportedly tried to snatch several infants before being beaten back by residents armed with sticks and metal bars.

“Primal Invasion” read the headline in the Hindustan Times.

Authorities are struggling to contain primates that are stubbornly resisting efforts to portray New Delhi as a modern, clean and globalized capital.

The city of 14 million people is growing quickly and experts say monkeys are increasingly being forced out of forests and into urban settings, putting them on a collision course with humans.

It is a pattern seen across India as the economy booms. Elephants, leopards and tigers are also coming face to face with man as cities sprawl into their former habitats.

Monkeys are a regular sight in New Delhi. They can be seen in groups climbing outside government ministries. Troupes lounge on pavements, oblivious to the chaotic traffic around them.

But culling monkeys has never been an option as many Hindus worship the monkey god Hanuman, seen as a symbol of strength, perseverance and devotion. And when New Delhi tried to shift them out of the city, neighbouring states complained.

Faced with what many saw as a monkey plague on homes, offices and ministries, this year city authorities started to capture and send them to a sanctuary on New Delhi’s outskirts.

New Delhi government officials say they have caught and relocated around 1,900 monkeys. While there is no census of monkey numbers, officials say thousands still live on the city’s streets.

But a spate of high-profile monkey attacks has made headlines and increased public pressure for the government to act quicker.

“The latest attack was unprecedented,” said J.K. Dadoo, environment and forest secretary in the New Delhi government. “Monkeys normally operate in groups.”

Experts say there is a growing pattern of lone attacks that may highlight the random way authorities are trying to reduce the monkey population in the city.

“Incidents of lone monkey attacks were almost unknown until recently,” said Sonya Ghose, founder of Citizens for the Welfare and Protection of Animals and a member of an enforcement panel overseeing the monkey relocation campaign.

“I fear that monkeys are being trapped in a haphazard manner. Monkey catchers are breaking up troupes of monkey families, leaving some monkeys alone without their families.

“Then they have nothing to lose and turn aggressive.”

Last year, the New Delhi Metro train service hired a larger langur monkey to frighten off smaller creatures after a monkey boarded a train and scared passengers by scowling at them for three stops.

Another langur is on the government payroll to scare off monkeys from New Delhi’s top federal government offices.

This year, a monkey sneaked into New Delhi’s international airport, forcing the partial closure of the lounge for more than an hour.

Dadoo said the problem was that some people fed monkeys on Tuesdays and Saturdays, seen as auspicious days for the animals.

“That is when we have most cases of monkey attacks, when people try to feed them,” he said.

Ghose said she suspected monkey catchers – often villagers from outside New Delhi who are paid 450 rupees ($11) a monkey – sometimes snatched monkeys in nearby forests and claimed they were caught in the city.

The New Delhi residents terrorised last weekend said the monkey attack was a terrifying experience.

“I thought it was a man at first,” Manohar, one of the residents, told The Times of India. “It got hold of my son’s leg and was carrying him away but I managed to snatch him back.”

See our last post on rebellion against the technosphere.

  1. Taliban-trained monkey commandos?
    We oppose this vicious exploitation unequivocally, but there is something poetically appealing about armed monkeys attacking imperial occupation troops. From Brian Fung’s blog on Foreign Policy, July 13:

    Chinese media scoop: The Taliban’s deadly monkey soldiers
    Wake up, Washington. The biggest challenge facing Afghanistan today isn’t corruption or political deadlock. It’s an army of bloodthirsty, Kalashnikov-toting monkeys. That’s right— according to the ever-credible Chinese state media, who are apparently the only ones alerting good readers to the insidious primate threat, Afghan Taliban have been recruiting countless baboons and macacas to the insurgent cause, turning peaceful tree-dwellers into unstoppable war machines that won’t hesitate to shoot:

    In a sense, the emergence of “monkey soldiers” is the result of asymmetrical warfare.


    Analysts believe that apart from using “monkey killers” to attack the American troops, the Taliban also sought to arouse Western animal protectionists to pressure their governments to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

    This changes everything. Fundamentalist monkey rebels? Mortar-launching baboons? Do primates even respond to counterinsurgency?