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Last Updated: Monday, 22 March, 2004, 17:48 GMT
Monkey mischief 'blesses' Bangladeshis
By Roland Buerk
BBC correspondent in Keshabpur, western Bangladesh

Monkeys in Keshabpur, Bangladesh
The monkeys are fed bananas and nuts twice a day by a local charity
The town of Keshabpur is overrun by hundreds of monkeys.

They steal and break into houses, but the people consider themselves lucky.

"This place is blessed, that is why monkeys live here," said Haridun Chakrabati, the Brahmin of the town's Hindu temple.

"These monkeys live nowhere else in Bangladesh. They come here because the people are friendly and they worship them as a god."

Most people in Bangladesh are Muslims, but Keshabpur in the western division of Jessore is home to many Hindus.

They revere the animals, black-faced langours, as Hanuman, the monkey god.

But the relationship between people and monkeys is uneasy.

The animals roam the town, raiding gardens, kitchens, and even people's shopping bags.

When we say we're sorry they forgive us and that's why we treat them as a sacred
Illan Bishush, housewife

"Usually they sit on the roof of my kitchen," says Illan Bishush, a 34-year-old housewife.

"I'm frightened of the monkeys because they are not afraid of women. They get very angry if women try to scare them off."

But she still respects the monkeys.

"They frighten us and damage things, but whenever we forgive them they forgive us. When we say we're sorry they forgive us and that's why we treat them as a sacred."

The roof of the local hospital is one of the monkeys' favourite haunts.

They can be sure visitors will have food for the patients.

Failed solution

"Whenever we come here groups of monkeys surround us," says Rena Parvin.

Keshabpur icons
Keshabpur is home to many Hindus

"They snatch things away from us; bananas, biscuits, cakes, whatever we bring for the patients. If we object they quarrel with us, they scratch our faces and tear our clothes."

Local people say the monkeys first moved into the Keshabpur area more than a century ago.

At one time there were thousands of them, but their numbers are now down to around 350.

The Poverty Elimination Assistance Centre for Everywhere is a local charity that feeds the monkeys bananas and nuts twice a day.

"The danger for the monkeys is electric wires; they are not insulated in Keshabpur," says Monirun Jonday, the project co-ordinator.

"When they jump from branch to branch they touch the wires and are electrocuted. Every year around 15 monkeys are killed."

One solution that was tried was to move the monkeys to woods outside the town.

The dominant males were sedated and transported there in the hope the others would follow.

But a few hours later the male monkeys were back, and for now the people of Keshabpur have learned to live with their dubious blessing.

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