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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
Nuisance monkeys face sterilisation
By Baldev Chauhan
BBC correspondent in Simla

Loitering in groups, pestering passers-by, stealing food - India's urban monkeys have become a menace to society.

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Simian delinquency is booming, fuelled by a steady rise in the monkey population.

But in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, the humans have had enough - and, perhaps literally, the knives are out.

Authorities in the region have decided it is high time the nuisance monkeys are sterilised.

They have applied to the Environment and Forests Ministry in Delhi for permission to proceed with a sterilisation programme.

A senior wildlife official told the BBC the state's female monkeys can rest easy - male monkeys will be the sole targets of the initiative.

According to the official, tests have shown sterilisation is far more effective in male primates than it is in females.

If given the go-ahead, each of the state's sterilised monkeys would have a micro-chip implanted in it, to make sure the same animal was not operated on twice.

The wildlife official said the cost of sterilising each monkey would be about 1,750 rupees, or $35.

An easy life

That's money well spent, say residents in the hill resort of Simla, which has had serious monkey problems of its own.

One of them told the BBC this was the time for decisive action, as the state's monkey population was on course to outnumber its humans.

Exact figures for the number of monkeys in India are not available, but they are to be found almost everywhere in the country.

The commonest breed is the Rhesus Macaque, a type of brown monkey that lives to the age of around 17.

Though denied the protection afforded to the sacred cow, monkeys nonetheless have an easy life in India.

Temples are often dedicated to them, in memory of the Hindu god, Hanuman, himself part-monkey.

The presence of pilgrims and devotees at these temples provides the monkeys with a ready source of food - and to judge by their antics, entertainment.

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