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India's monkey men keep marauding macaques at bay

A troop of marauding monkeys suddenly stops tearing up a New Delhi garden, as one of the Indian capital's sought-after "monkey men" swings into action.

With a series of simian-like screeches and hoots, Mahendra Goswami sends the troop fleeing, as he works to keep the pesky primates from leafy central Delhi's government buildings and plush residences.

The government has hired 40 such "monkey wallahs", an Indian term that roughly translates as monkey men, who mimic the aggressive langur, the natural enemy of the smaller rhesus macaques who wreck havoc.

"A loud 'ah, ah, ah' is our first call, warning monkeys about an aggressive langur's approach," the 26-year-old Goswami tells AFP.

He follows it up with an equally shrill "uh, uh, uh," mimicking the sound of a frightened retreating monkey.

"Finally we make a loud 'uah, uah' - an attack call - and mix it with the first two sounds, which ultimately make monkey groups nervously scamper for cover," he said.

Though revered in the majority Hindu nation, monkeys are a major menace, often trashing gardens, office and residential rooftops and even viciously attacking people for food.

Concern about the monkey menace was raised in parliament last week when politicians were told the 40 monkey men were working to keep the animals at bay.

For decades, the city's streets were patrolled by wallahs with their trained langurs. But the practice ended last year after a court ruled keeping them in captivity was cruel.

Goswami and his colleagues, who are in high demand particularly in Delhi's plush VIP quarters, can also use slingshots and sticks to ward off the animals.

Recently locals erected a plastic langur with a tape machine inside that played recorded sounds of the animals in a bid to scare them away.

"It took a group of monkeys three days to realise it was a dummy and then they raided it like a wolf pack and took away all its pieces," Goswami said.

bb/tha/cc/jta