India is plagued by packs of ᴠɪᴏʟᴇɴt and ᴀɢɢʀᴇssɪve primates and the problem could be solved if the world’s only monkey ᴊᴀɪʟ is replaced with a school for naughty chimps. The ᴊᴀɪʟ at the Motibagh Bir Zoological Park was first reported on back in 2002, but In 2009, Indian wildlife officials reported that the ᴊᴀɪʟ would be closed and instead turned into a school to teach the monkeys to behave better. Officials in Punjab said ᴅᴇʟɪɴǫᴜᴇɴᴛ monkeys posed a growing ᴍᴇɴᴀᴄᴇ to residents. Chief wildlife warden RK Luna told the BBC about some of the problems the cheeky monkeys could cause. Back when the ᴊᴀɪʟ opened, it was home to just 11 monkeys apprehended by game wardens, mostly for stealing and ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋing people.
Because of Hindu beliefs in Hanuman, the monkey god, the primates cannot be put down by authorities. The Daily Telegraph at the time reported how the monkeys at the ᴘʀɪsᴏɴ would “snarl and glare at visitors from their heavily-barred cages”. But there was evidence that the penal system was working for the monkeys, with two of the animals released early for exhibiting good behaviour. Reports said the pair had managed to stay out of trouble. Then-ᴊᴀɪʟer Ram Tirath said the remaining primate inmates were too ᴠɪᴏʟᴇɴt to release.
“All 11 monkeys are hard cases who have been apprehended by game wardens for ᴛʜɪᴇᴠing, ᴛᴇʀʀᴏʀising and biting people,” he said. “It’s unlikely any of them will ever be paroled.”
There are thought to be at least 65,000 wild monkeys in Punjab state alone, and a small minority caused so much ʜᴀᴠᴏᴄ, that officials felt there was no choice but to lock them up.
The problem of ᴠɪᴏʟᴇɴt monkeys in India has only got worse as ᴅᴇғᴏʀᴇsᴛᴀᴛɪᴏɴ and spreading urbanisation ᴅᴇsᴛʀᴏʏs the animals’ habitats, forcing them to live closer to humans and even into the cities.
Monkey ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋs were reported at the nearby Punjab Agricultural University, while another pair were even caught stealing handbags from women in the street.
Some of the monkey ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋs, however, were a result of direct human intervention.
Wildlife officials believe some of the arrested monkeys were trained by ᴛʜɪᴇᴠes to rob humans, while lorry drivers used the animals as guards for their vehicles.
Some entertainers would also use ᴀʙᴜsed monkeys as part of their act.
Other monkeys were pets that were abandoned by their owners when they became ᴠɪᴏʟᴇɴt or ʀᴇʙᴇʟʟɪᴏᴜs.
Macaque monkeys native to India’s northwestern regions close to the border with Pakistan can get ᴀɢɢʀᴇssɪve, and often ᴅᴇsᴛʀᴏʏ TV antennae, tear down clotheslines and damage parked scooters and motorbikes.
“Besides people landing in hospitals after encounters with monkeys, the animals also often get ʜᴜʀᴛ when house owners try to chase them away or keep them out by using live electric wires and other means,” he said.
The proposed monkey school was planned to take in the “worst ᴏꜰꜰᴇɴᴅers” and put them on a ᴄʀᴀsʜ course to learn good manners.
“We have proposed a composite facility where scientific methods will be employed to change and alter the social habits of the monkeys,” Luna added.
Wildlife officials hoped the school would help reduce the monkeys’ ᴀɢɢʀᴇssɪon and train them to behave more like wild animals.
There were plans to turn the school into a temporary home for up to 100 rogue monkeys.
Luna explained that the centre would start with 15-20 animals, and be built alongside a quarantine area and veterinary hospital.
The monkey ʀᴇʜᴀʙ centre was planned as an extension of the zoo, which is housed in a thickly forested area once home to the royal ʜᴜɴᴛing grounds of the prince of Patiala. This was to replace the earlier ᴊᴀɪʟ, and Luna at the time said work would begin immediately. But sadly, plans for the school then seemed to fade.
Meanwhile, monkey ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋs continue to cause chaos in parts of India. Last year, two people were ᴋɪʟʟed in a ᴍᴜʀᴅᴇʀous monkey ᴍᴜʀᴅᴇʀ in a village in the Chandusi region in northern India. Earlier this month in Punjab, marauding monkeys took over government offices belonging to the Punjab and Haryana Civil Secretariat. The Indian Express reports that the animals had become so ᴀɢɢʀᴇssɪve that guards at the building had taken to “avoiding eye contact” or running away to avoid provoking them.