India has a monkey problem. Gangs of rhesus macaques have a nasty habit of breaking into buildings and bullying workers, munching on their food, and running off with files. So what does the parliament do when it’s the target? It scares them away—by hiring 40 people to impersonate bigger monkeys.
“These are men who are village performers, and some of them have played monkeys on stage,” PK Sharma, the New Delhi Municipal Corporation’s chief health officer, told The Guardian. “So they mimic the sound of the langur and it scares the smaller, red-faced macaques away.”
The guards don’t dress up as monkeys. They mimic the hoots and cries of the gray langur, a nemesis of the smaller macaque. (Here’s a guy imitating a langur’s sounds.) It’s not yet clear whether the monkey police are effective. But to animal rights advocates—who argue that humans have forced the monkeys out of their natural habitats—the new strategy is better than the alternative.
Actual langurs were used to patrol New Delhi’s streets and scare away smaller monkeys for decades. In 2010, officials trained and walked around with langurs on leashes to protect Commonwealth Games spectators and athletes from attacks by wild simians.
Three years before, New Delhi’s deputy mayor fell to his death after monkeys attacked him on the terrace of his home. In 2004, officers blamed the animals for flinging around top-secret defense documents and jeopardizing national security.
Despite the menace, Hindus don’t kill the primates because they’re associated with Hanuman, a monkey god.
However, according to Venkaiah Naidu, India’s minister of urban development, rubber bullets will be used if the impersonators aren’t able to run the macaques off. Parliament member Ambeth Rajan has suggested another option.
“We are wasting money by training humans to scare away monkeys,” he told the Business Standard. “The simians should be caught and released in a jungle.”