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Monkey business: SDMC unwilling, HC unrelenting; Who will catch the apes?

By Vishal S
|

New Delhi, July 16: Catching monkeys is something for which the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has been extremely reluctant and has come up a variety of reasons to explain to the court they not exactly cut out for 'monkey business. The corporation wants the High Court to give this responsibility to the Wildlife Department of the Delhi government, but the court is not willing to relent.

The high court's March 14, 2007 order directs the municipality to catch monkeys and relocate them to the sanctuary.

Monkey business: SDMC unwilling, HC unrelenting; Who will catch the apes?

SDMC came up with many reasons like it cannot catch the simians due to lack of monkey-catchers. It also said that it had put out several advertisements for recruiting monkey-catchers and had even increased payment to Rs 1,200, despite which no application was received. SDMC also said it had written to the Chief Wildlife Wardens of the Delhi government, as also of states like Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan, to provide monkey catchers, but got no response from them. Byt, the HC remained defiant.

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In the latest development, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) is likely to file a review petition against a 2007 order of the Delhi High Court on catching monkeys and releasing them in the Ridge area. On July 3, the court had rejected an SDMC plea to modify its 2007 order, saying "anyone aggrieved with it should file an appeal or review and not an application seeking modification of the decision".

"We are not going to hear any of your (SDMC) reasons for inability, disability or deliberate non-compliance of the order," it had said. In a bid to curb the monkey menace in the national capital, the court had in 2007 asked the city government to provide cages for catching monkeys and municipal corporations to place them at various spots. The court directed authorities to shift the monkeys caught to the Asola sanctuary and the forest department to provide them food so that they do not venture out. Till now, around 23,000 monkeys have been shifted to the wildlife sanctuary.

"The high court order does not specify as to who is responsible for catching monkeys and shifting them to the Asola Wildlife Sanctuary," an official said on condition of anonymity. The official said rhesus macaque is a protected species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 which means the responsibility of catching and relocating them lies with the forest department, he said.

"Though we are yet to take any call as we are busy attending to other issues, we are likely to file a review plea in the high court. We may also move the Supreme Court," he said. In an advisory issued in 2018, the Environment Ministry had said, "Rhesus macaque is a protected species under the Act and managing such wild animals and their habitat is the mandate of the forest department and not of local bodies." The forest department argues that monkeys found in human habitations have been domesticated and they are not wild animals.

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"Their third-fourth generations were born in residential areas. They cannot live in jungles. The Asola sanctuary has exceeded its carrying capacity and the simians are returning to nearby human habitations," a forest department official said.

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