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India hires masked monkey men to combat macaque menace

© AFP/File | A troop of monkeys relax on a building at The Ministry of Health Complex in New Delhi on November 29, 2008A troop of monkeys relax on a building at The Ministry of Health Complex in New Delhi on November 29, 2008

India has hired a group of monkey impersonators to scare the real marauding animals away from parliament and other key buildings in the nation's capital, officials said Thursday.

The "very talented" group of men has taken to wearing monkey masks, imitating their whoops and barks and hiding behind trees to ward off the aggressive animals, the head of the Delhi municipality told AFP.

Groups of monkeys, which are revered in the majority Hindu nation, roam freely around Delhi's streets where they trash gardens, offices and even attack people in their search for food.

Concerns about the monkey population were raised in parliament where India's government was asked what it was doing to combat the problem.

An Indian minister said 40 trained men had in fact been hired to protect the raucous house, itself accused of monkey-like behaviour, from the animal intruders.

"Various efforts are being made to tackle the monkey and dog menace inside and around the parliament house," Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said in a written reply to a lawmaker's question.

"The measures include scaring the monkeys away by trained persons who disguise themselves as langurs (long tailed monkeys)."

"The New Delhi Municipal Corporation has hired 40 young persons for this purpose," Naidu added.

The NDMC, the body tasked with providing civic services, said the men were "very talented" and had been trained to "closely copy" the noises and actions of the more aggressive langurs to scare away the smaller rhesus macaques.

"They often wear a mask on their faces, hide behind the trees and make these noises to scare away the simians," NDMC chairman Jalaj Srivastava told AFP.

Monkey catchers and their trained langurs used to be hired by wealthy home owners, politicians and business people to patrol the streets to keep wild monkeys at bay.

But the government cracked down on the business last year after a court ruled that keeping monkeys in captivity was cruel.

With its lush lawns and gardens, monkeys are drawn to the streets around parliament, which is also home to top bureaucrats, business leaders and foreign embassies.