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Monkey business affecting government affairs in New Delhi

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Monkey business affecting government affairs in New Delhi
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Large gangs of monkeys are lording over India's political power centres, confidently swinging and jumping between the various government buildings, including the presidential palace.

About 4,000-5,000 Rhesus Macaque monkeys are estimated to be residing in and around the ornate red sandstone buildings of New Delhi, confidently snatching food, breaking power lines and tearing up documents snatched from windows.

Complaints about their behaviour from bureaucrats and ministers have risen. India's parliament has even issued an advisory telling people to avoid making direct eye with the simians and crossing the path between a monkey mother and her infant.

Indian authorities recently hired about 40 monkey chasers - the traditional tribe of Kalandars who used to catch monkeys and make them dance on the streets to eke out a living - to scare them away.

Gul Khan, a third generation monkey chaser, said the trick is to imitate langurs, a creature the monkeys are frightened of. But this technique only serves as a temporary solution, as the primates still return to their prominent posts at the end of each day.

Feeding monkeys their favourite treat, bananas, is a common sight across India, whose majority Hindu population consider the fellow primates sacred incarnations of the monkey god Hanuman.

"I think this problem can only be solved if people understand - stop feeding monkeys," said Kartik Satyanarayan, an animal rights activist and the co-founder of Wildlife SOS.

Little has been done to curb the menace once and for all, and government employees still say they walk warily to work, often armed with sticks and stones to prevent monkey attacks.

There is no official data on Delhi's monkey population, but the city's civic bodies estimate there to be between 400,000 to 500,000 - a hundred times the number estimated within the grounds of the government ministries.