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Abused monkeys upset animal activists
16 Sep 2007,
Lalit Kumar,TNN

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GHAZIABAD: After over a decade, the Municipal Corporation of Ghaziabad has been taking steps to check the growing simian population in the city. However, the campaign that was launched on Thursday has left animal rights activists and other people fuming because of a chilling display of cruelty.

On Thursday, 17 monkeys were caught and bundled into a cage three feet long, four feet wide and less than three feet deep. With not even enough breathing space, the monkeys, including some babies, were forced to suffer the torture from around 12 pm till the evening. The authorities claimed it was necessary to put them in the cage to transport them.

The local People For Animals (PFA) chief, Ashima Sharma, confirmed that ''inquiries had revealed the 17 poor monkeys were kept in one cage till the evening on Thursday''. When this was brought to the notice of the civic body chief, Ajay Shankar Pande, he expressed shock. ''I am appalled at the way the monkeys have been treated,'' he said. ''I have ordered that no more than two of them should be put in one cage.''

But the orders obviously did not reach his men. Things were slightly better on Saturday afternoon. Six monkeys were this time put in a cage and Pande had to intervene to order their release after this was brought to his notice by PFA activists. The vigilant activists then kept a tab on the civic body's monkey catchers. And sure enough later on Saturday, they once again found many monkey stuffed into a cage and also being prodded with iron rods. It was on their intervention once again that the animals were released. One had to be taken to a veterinary hospital, so severe were the wounds.

"We will not allow any more rounding up of monkeys until a more civilised approach is adopted. And MCG chief, Pande, has agreed to this," said Sharma. Commenting on the the campaign and the manner in which the monkeys were being caught, forest range officer R V Singh said they have to adopt a practical approach.

"The monkeys caught on Thursday were released in a Garhmukteshwar forest area at night," he said. "Yes, they had to stay in the cage till they were released. But you have to be practical. A little bit of discomfort to the creatures cannot be avoided."

Animal rights activists were appalled by the MCG's methods. Said Sonya Ghosh of Citizens for the Welfare and Protection of Animals: "According to high court orders passed with regard to monkey-catching, while they are supposed to be kept in room-size cages, if only 8 X 4 cages are available, around 12 monkeys can be kept in them. But it is inhuman by any standard to stuff 17 monkeys in a three feet long, four feet wide and three feet deep cage. A cage of this size can only be used to transport around three monkeys under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act."

She added: "Moreover, the monkeys are supposed to be released soon after they are caught. Otherwise, they tend to get violent and fight with each other."

According to her, it is also essential to capture an entire family of the simians together by enticing them with food placed in a cage. This prevents the other members from turning violent.

In neighbouring Delhi, the monkey menace has been growing but the plight of monkeys locked up in cages in Rajokri had angered activists. But since then the authorities have taken care to give them a good habitat in Asola wildlife sanctuary. That happened by default after most neighbouring states refused to let Delhi release its monkeys in their forests.

Later, a court order forced Municipal Corporation of Delhi to start rounding them up. Since then they have been facing a shortage of monkey-catchers.

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