x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Monkey guards deployed at Commonwealth Games sites

With more than 5,000 simians roaming freely through New Delhi, security forces have brought in bigger apes to control them.

Langurs stand on leash held by their owners in front of the Commonwealth Games headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Langurs stand on leash held by their owners in front of the Commonwealth Games headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday.

NEW DELHI // City officials are not going to allow any monkey business when the Commonwealth Games begin on Sunday. An estimated 5,000 simians roam the city and they are often aggressive and dangerous. So, security forces are employing a potent weapon to combat the pests: big monkeys. Ten additional langurs - large, black-faced apes - have been added to New Delhi Municipal Council's regular staff of 28 to keep venues clear of smaller monkeys.

Controlling monkeys with monkeys is a common practice in New Delhi. The new contingent of langurs is expected to focus on the swimming complex, seen as a likely target for primate shenanigans. Environmentalists say the removal of many trees around the stadium has forced the primates out of their natural habitat and into closer contact with humans, often harassing and even biting people. In 2004, monkeys even threatened national security, when they were blamed for scattering top-secret documents around a ministry of defence office. Two years later, the city's deputy mayor fell to his death after being attacked by monkeys on his balcony. However, the huge popularity of monkey god Hanuman means that only fellow primates have been allowed to threaten the marauding pest.

Meanwhile, there was considerably more praise from international teams as about 850 more athletes and officials moved into the Games Village yesterday. "After all the stories we heard back home, I expected to arrive and find my bed floating down the river," said the England hockey player Alex Danson, who moved in on Monday. "But the accommodation has been brilliant. After all the media hype, I think it's important to tell the world that they've done a great job." Even the Scots, who had been among the most vocal critics of the "unliveable" conditions last week, said they were "pleasantly surprised" with the cleanliness of facilities.

"The accommodation is comfortable and spacious and security seems excellent," said Ian Marsden, a rifle shooter. The Village's International Zone, with its manicured lawns and state-of-the-art water features, seems a world away from the images of soiled bed sheets, blocked toilets and stray dogs wandering through apartments that hit headlines across the world last week. But with the media blocked from residential areas, it is unclear how much progress had been made since the weekend when the Commonwealth Games Federation president, Mike Fennell, admitted that several housing towers may be abandoned.

"Some are not in very good condition," he told the CNN-IBN television channel on Saturday. "But there's spare space. Closing down of the blocks is a possibility if it comes to that." He added that his past warnings over poor hygiene and filth were "not heeded at all". "I was horrified that it was left like that," he said. "I was giving warnings a year ago. I had said on August 18 and 19, on my last visit, that cleaning-up needed to be done."

foreign.desk@thenational.ae