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Monkeys protect Indian government officials

Rhesus monkeys invade Indian government buildings at night. Now the government has tasked langur monkeys with shooing their simian rivals away.

By Staff writer / May 18, 2011

Badal Kalandar brings his langur monkey, Pawan, to work every day by bicycle in New Delhi. Pawan hops on the back seat rack readily and is not afraid of the traffic in the city. Pawan is trained to scare away smaller monkeys at government buildings.

Ben Arnoldy/The Christian Science Monitor

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New Delhi

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

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Pawan, a trained langur monkey in New Delhi, earns his keeper about $5 a day, which is more than what 80 percent of Indians make. Pawan has a very specific skill. He chases away the hordes of rhesus monkeys who invade India’s government buildings by night.

The red-bottomed monkeys have become a nuisance over the years, tearing through files and biting bureaucrats. In 2007, a deputy mayor died after falling off a terrace during a monkey attack.

Killing the monkeys is not an option. Some Hindus revere monkeys as the army of the monkey god, Hanuman. So the government hires men like Badal Kalandar, called langur wallahs, to shoo the rhesus monkeys away.

Each day Mr. Kalandar bikes for an hour to work with Pawan perched on a back seat rack. Once they arrive at the minister of power’s house, Kalandar walks around with Pawan on a long leash while the langur jumps up trees and over walls.

The rhesus monkeys usually invade the minister’s property after getting chased from Parliament nearby. Pawan then chases them down the street, and down the hierarchy of officialdom. The nearby Supreme Court chief justice has eight langur wallahs.

As evening falls, the langur wallahs leave and the rogue monkeys return.

“The monkeys like this place because they are fed. There are times when people come with a car full of nuts and bananas for them,” says Kalandar. He offers a second explanation, too: “Because the god of monkeys has a blessing on all these ministers, that’s why the monkeys are here – to protect them.”

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