Monkeys run amok in India’s corridors of power

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Monkeys sit atop a wall next to a security personnel keeping guard, at India's Parliament premises in New Delhi, India, November 15, 2018. (REUTERS)
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A monkey sits on a pavement outside India's Parliament building in New Delhi, India, November 15, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 December 2018
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Monkeys run amok in India’s corridors of power

  • Monkeys have bred rapidly in Delhi and neighboring states as they have protected status, but there is no official estimate of their numbers

NEW DELHI: India’s government faces a tough re-election battle next year but first it must deal with an opponent as wily as any political rival, troops of monkeys that have become a big threat around its offices in New Delhi.
Red-faced rhesus macaques have spread havoc, snatching food and mobile telephones, breaking into homes and terrorizing people in and around the Indian capital.
They have colonized areas around parliament and the sites of key ministries, from the prime minister’s office to the finance and defense ministries, frightening both civil servants and the public.
“Very often they snatch food from people as they are walking, and sometimes they even tear files and documents by climbing in through the windows,” said Ragini Sharma, a home ministry employee.
Ahead of Tuesday’s start of parliament’s winter session, an advisory to members of parliament last month detailed ways they could keep simian attacks at bay. Don’t tease or make direct eye contact with a monkey, the advisory said, and definitely don’t get between a mother and her infant.
The rapid growth of cities has displaced macaques, geographically the most widely distributed primates in the world after humans, driving them into human habitats to hunt for food.
Many in Hindu-majority India revere and feed the animals they consider to be connected to the demigod Hanuman, who takes the form of a monkey.
“This socio-religious tradition of feeding has created a vicious cycle,” said ecology researcher Asmita Sengupta.
“They become used to being fed by humans and lose their sense of fear,” said Sengupta, of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment.
“They start actively seeking supplementary food and if we don’t feed them, they turn aggressive.”

’APE REPELLERS’
The monkeys have hardly proved an ally for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Hundreds of macaques feasting on optic fiber cables strung along the banks of the river Ganges derailed his plan to roll out wifi in his constituency, the crowded 3,000-year-old holy city of Varanasi, in 2015.
Men were hired to swat the monkeys away with broomsticks and slingshots, when then US President Barack Obama toured New Delhi that year, media said.
Some monkey-human encounters have turned tragic.
In 2007, monkeys pushed the deputy mayor of Delhi, S.S. Bajwa, off his balcony to his death. Last month, one of the animals snatched a 12-day-old boy from his mother and killed him in Agra, home to the famed monument to love, the Taj Mahal.
Monkeys have bred rapidly in Delhi and neighboring states as they have protected status, but there is no official estimate of their numbers.
India has tried several strategies to fight the menace.
Several years ago, it brought in larger, black-faced langurs, feared by the macaques, to patrol key areas but that stopped after it became illegal to keep langurs in captivity.
Authorities stumbled on a partially successful solution four years ago, after hiring 40 men to disguise themselves as langurs and squeal monkey-like to try and terrify the macaques away.
“We call them ‘ape repellers’ and they are contract employees,” said a government official, who asked not to be identified. The stratagem works temporarily as the monkeys flee on hearing the calls, but they return once the men depart.
Primatologist S.M. Mohnot recommends sterilization and moving the animals to forests, as well as lifting a ban on their capture for biomedical research and resuming exports of the macaques, as components of a solution.
“The monkey menace can be checked only by a multi-pronged approach,” said Mohnot, the chairman of the Primate Research Center, a federal institute in the western city of Jodhpur.


Japan’s ‘Uncle Olympics’ fan dies just short of 2020 Games

Naotoshi Yamada, above, was planning to attend the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. (Reuters/File)
Updated 18 March 2019
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Japan’s ‘Uncle Olympics’ fan dies just short of 2020 Games

  • The man attended all summer games since 1964
  • He often wore a golden hat when he attended the games

TOKYO: A Japanese Olympic mega-fan who attended every summer games since Tokyo in 1964 has died, just over a year before his home city was to host its second Olympics.
Tokyo businessman Naotoshi Yamada, 92, who died on March 9 from heart failure, was a national celebrity in his own right with his repeated, gleeful appearances in Olympic stands.
“Uncle Olympics,” as he came to be known, was an omnipresent fixture for Japanese TV watchers cheering on the Japan team at the “Greatest Show On Earth.”
Often sporting a gold top hat, kimono, and a beaming smile, Yamada also became a darling of the international media.
“After 92 years of his life spent cheering, Naotoshi Yamada, international Olympic cheerleader, was called to eternal rest on March 9, 2019,” said his web site, managed by a firm he founded.
Born in 1926, Yamada built a successful wire rope manufacturing business, and also expanded his portfolio to include the hotel and real estate sectors.
But away from work, his passion was for sport, particularly the Olympics.
He did not miss a summer games since 1964, taking in Mexico City, Munich, Montreal, Moscow, Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro.
For good measure, he also attended the winter games when it rolled into Nagano in 1998, and told local media of his strong desire to attend the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Yamada saw the first Tokyo Olympics when he was 38.
But his passion was truly ignited during the 1968 Mexico City Games, according to his website.
He donned a kimono and a sombrero hat and loudly cheered for a Mexican 5000-meter runner, mistaking him for a Japanese athlete.
Local spectators embraced the scene and loudly cheered for Japanese athletes in return, leading to an electrifying show of support that went beyond nationality, his website said.
“He saw the awesome power of cheering, and was mesmerised by it ever since,” it said.