Monkeys reclaim Delhi streets as humans lock themselves in

April 09, 2020


A MONKEY crosses a deserted road in New Delhi.—AFP
A MONKEY crosses a deserted road in New Delhi.—AFP

NEW DELHI: Hundreds of monkeys have taken over the streets around India’s presidential palace, leading an animal offensive taking advantage of deserted streets as the country remains under a coronavirus lockdown.

With India’s 1.3 billion population and tens of millions of cars conspicuous by their absence, stray domestic animals and wildlife has moved to fill the void, while also suffering from the pandemic fallout.

In the financial capital Mumbai, peacocks have been seen perched on top of parked cars, displaying their spectacular trains.

In Delhi, troops of monkeys now scamper over the walls of the Rashtrapati Bhawan presidential compound, past military guards and into the grounds of ministries and other official buildings.

“They are stealing a lot more, but not yet threatening humans,” said one officer on duty at the palace entrance.

The Rhesus macaque monkeys — who often snatch food from shoppers’ bags — have long been a problem in the capital, but there have been reports of some getting into office buildings during the lockdown.

Other animals have also been emboldened by the coronavirus restrictions on humans, who are only allowed out for food and essential items.

A Himalayan black bear last week wandered into Gangtok, capital of the northeastern state of Sikkim, entering a telecoms office and injuring an engineer, media reported.

Indian Forest Service officers, meanwhile, have shared videos on social media of elephants trundling past shuttered shops along deserted streets. But the lockdown has also been deadly for some animals.

Four horses normally employed for tourist carriage rides near Kolkata’s landmark Victoria Memorial have died from starvation in recent days, animal rights activists said.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2020