Lesser mammals

Urban Wild

Toby Ninan retired from Delhi Zoo about two years back. With
his varied experiences with the wild animals in the zoo, he is the right person to
direct your queries to. Hear what Ninan has to say about his life and chosen career!


Urban Delhi is a place where a number of wild animals live in the concrete jungle of the capital city ( pun unintended).

At the outset this may seem to be a strange statement- but after more than 35 years of experience in Delhi Zoo I have found this very true.

Among the commonest ones are the Rhesus monkeys which inhabit the nooks and crannies of our city buildings. A large number are found around the main offices of the Central Government, near temples and also lately in the colonies of the city and surrounding towns.

Monkeys enjoy a hierarchical society and depend on man to provide them with food in cities.

Human beings especially those in the North of our country regularly feed these animals with fruit and other nutritious food. I have seen local folk carrying around bread, bananas, papaya, apples and 'paranthas' dripping in pure ghee in large bags to feed hordes of monkeys at different parts of the city. The animals come and wait at these spots for a handout.In the beginning they wait and accept food if it is thrown to them; soon they start demanding the eatables and if not offered, grab the food from willing or unwilling hands.

In the above process, the next step is realization that a mock charge will cause the people to leave their bags and flee. The monkeys then run away with the booty.

Often times seeing a group of monkeys, people, especially women and children get scared and open their eyes and mouth wide-which in monkey language means that 'I am going to attack you'. Monkeys retaliate on impulse and leave people badly mauled with multiple bites and scratches. The lucky ones escape with torn clothes.

Monkey bites can cause rabies and hence need to be attended to immediately.

Well-fed monkeys breed rapidly and can be a menace in large thickly populated areas. The reason why these simians encroach upon human settlements is not far to see. The scrub jungle around the city is being cut down for more and more dwelling places for city people.

The displaced monkeys who have made the Capital's North Block their home, are a sight for any visitor to the India Gate. Simians walking boldly past uniformed naval officers and decorated Generals through the corridors of power is indeed a ludicrous sight.

Tearing up official records is passé and no longer merits more than a passing mention in newspapers. Monkeys caught swimming in pools of cooling plants attract the ire of security men.

Often we at the zoo are asked to capture these monkeys and house them at the zoo. They soon overpopulate our enclosures.

Their relocation in jungles far enough to stop their returning is also not a solution. They love to return. Who does not want a free lunch?

More about other urban wilds in my next article.




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