In 1977 India banned the export of Rhesus monkeys. The late Rt Hon Muriel, Lady Dowding, the international founder of the Beauty Without Cruelty movement, met the then Prime Minister, Shri Morarji Desai in New Delhi and requested him to ban the export of monkeys as they were being subjected to intense cruelty in American and other foreign research laboratories.


(The International Primate League, USA, the Animal Welfare Board of India and the Blue Cross from Madras falsely claimed credit for having achieved this ban. It was only after the ban had been announced, the IPPL wrote to the PM asking him to confirm having banned the export and on that basis they released a number of articles! No doubt they, and the other two, had also created an awareness of the issue over years, and had even appealed to the government earlier, but it was solely because of BWC’s appeal in 1977 by Lady Dowding, immediately followed up personally by our chairperson that the ban materialised.)

Again BWC came to the rescue of monkeys when in 1991, following submission of our comprehensive report on “Circuses in India” to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (Government of India) a Notification banning the use of tigers, lions, panthers, bears and monkeys was issued and continues to be in force, with another specie, bulls, added.

After the amended Wild Life Protection Act 2022 came into force on 1 April 2023, Forest Departments refused to do anything about the Rhesus macaque since it was no long a Schedule II animal resulting in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi being solely responsible for them. Furthermore, when 74 of them – 50 were electrocuted and 20 were poisoned – in Mugadapa village of Siddipet (Telangana) in October 2023 the Police had to take action under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act only. Creating suitable habitats for them is probably the only solution. In 2023, monkeys rescued from the Chandigarh Union Territory were released in the wild; and Kerala decided to use contraceptive methods, including vasectomy to check monkey menace.


Monkeys can count without being taught. Marmosets, like parrots, can imitate. Orangutans are innovative. Apes snub unknown apes, but show empathy to their pals, especially when eating since they like to share their food with those close to them.

Gorillas experience an identical range of emotions as humans. Chimps can be as kind, helpful, willing to do favours, generous and sharing as human beings, but they do show jealousy too. In a 2007 study undertaken at the Kyoto University, a chimpanzee put human memory to shame.

Animals such as monkeys, elephants, buffaloes, dogs and birds mourn the death of their partners and little ones, and several have mourned for the humans they’ve been close to.

Monkey Slavery

BWC has, to its horror, come across animal welfare persons, who, instead of working to end such animal exploitation, have recommended the use of elephants, camels and monkeys for pulling loads in sugar and other factories!

In 2012, the Kerala Animal Husbandry department due to shortage of tree climbers, and to make it cost effective put forward a proposal to engage (read exploit) monkeys, in place of humans, to pluck coconuts – the monkeys would be captured from the wild and trained – because monkeys are used for this purpose in Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Luckily for the monkeys, the drawback of this proposal was that they would not be able to decide which coconuts are ready for plucking and which ones should remain on the trees for ripening.

However a year later, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) disgracefully began exploring the possibility of starting a unique course to train monkeys in plucking coconuts and in fact submitted a project proposal to the Kerala government. They also planned on teaching parrots to talk to be companions to the elderly!

Seeing it as nothing short of slavery of wild life, strongly worded objections that it was illegal to capture animals and birds (monkeys and parrots) from the wild, and worse to tame and train them, were immediately sent off by BWC to the government and the TISS.

Teaching monkeys and parrots meant making them typically learn by being subjected to hunger, torture and fear in order to work or perform. And, should the monkeys pluck coconuts that were not ripe they would surely suffer punishment as would the parrots for repeating inappropriate words.

There was no doubt that the project attracted the provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act on grounds of hunting which was banned in 1991, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act on grounds of infliction of suffering.

Attention was also drawn to the Ministry's Notification under which monkeys were not allowed to be trained. These monkeys would obviously suffer much the same fate as those that were kept in circuses for performances that were banned due to cruelty involved. It was also possible that they could later, when they grew old and could no longer climb coconut palms, be used for performing tricks or so-called research and testing, which were also banned.

Although TISS replied they were “concerned about animal welfare and nothing will be done to the contrary” BWC hoped that immediate steps to ensure that the proposal was cancelled would be taken by government and that monkeys and parrots would never be turned into slaves. Delayed or no action in this serious matter would certainly encourage illegal hunting/capturing and exploitation of wild life.

Moreover, if allowed, it wouldn’t be long before monkeys could also be taught to serve the coconuts they bring down from the palms, to people in restaurants thus further expanding animal slavery and violating the Notification which forbids monkeys being trained to perform. Incidentally, many have rightly felt it was cruel for two macaques to have been taught to serve customers hot towels and drinks at a tavern in Japan.

Monkey vs. Monkey

Similar to the “anti-pigeon” hawk employed by Wimbledon (UK) on the tennis tournament days covering a fortnight, to fly over the courts twice a day and clear the skies of pigeons, in 2010 a langur (meaning one with a long tail) was employed by pooling in Rs 7,000 per month by 20 Members of Parliament in New Delhi, so that the Rhesus monkey menace would be controlled on Mahadev Road! Even the Commonwealth Games in the city had a monkey police doing rounds. By 2011, the capital had people hiring many more trained langurs whose keepers (the madaris of yore) brought them on a bicycle to work at the places (government buildings and houses) where the Rhesus monkeys invaded. Paid Rs250/- per day, the langur-wallahs ensured that their monkeys chased away the others during the day. But as evening fell and the langur-wallahs left, the rogue Rhesus monkeys returned to remain till they were chased away again the next morning by the langurs! This and the fact that in the wild the langurs and Rhesus happily share the same trees and waterholes, makes one wonder if they are role-playing as per human expectations.

BWC was one of the organisations that protested the use langurs despite a ban on their use. In response to animal rights activists complaints, in 2014 the New Delhi Municipal Council hired 40 men – the very same langur-wallahs capable of mimicking the aggressive sounds made by langurs (“ah, ah, ah, oo, oo, oo” called out fast), but without langurs accompanying them. Men mimicking calls of langurs are acceptable to BWC, but not the use of gulail/slingshots/catapults because they could easily result in injuring to the Rhesus monkeys. However langurs continued to surreptitiously assist the men in driving away the other monkeys till it was understood they got over their fear for them! So then it was back to hiring monkey-catchers who could physically nab and hand over the monkeys to the Municipality for release in nearby forests areas.

In July 2016 a monkey entered the Parliament house library adjoining Central Hall and remained in the reading room meant for MPs and journalists for half an hour jumping on tables and climbing up and down electrical wires. Till the end of the previous month langurs had been employed by the government to chase away the monkeys from Parliament House.

In February 2017 langurs were hired for a couple of weeks by the government to guard electronic voting machines (EVMs) against other monkeys expected to literally play with the EVMs kept in a dilapidated building on the outskirts of Meerut!

Around the same time a langur that had supposedly bitten 24 persons in Nanded City, Pune was captured after being tranquillised.

Talking of langurs, in February 2020 Ahmedabad’s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport began deploying a staffer wearing a bear costume to chase away langurs and it works probably because the attacks occur only once a day and at a specific time! (BWC hopes the bear fur utilised is artificial.)

The reason for this long standing monkey menace is habitat loss – forest areas made into human settlements. Even when the monkeys were relocated to a sanctuary, Asola-Bhatti 2007 onwards they did not get the kind of food they needed and began raiding surrounding villages. They need natural foraging, not chopped vegetables! In 2015 expenses of Rs 8 crore per day was claimed to be spent on 2,500 kgs of fruits and vegetables for 19,000 monkeys – no census was ever conducted to ascertain this number. (In December 2014 for three weeks they were not fed because the contractor stopped supplies due to non-payment.)

The women of Almora have major complaints regarding monkeys with regard to their safety and livelihoods – they destroy their crops as do wild boar which were been declared as vermin by the government of Uttarakhand in 2016. (Soon after Bihar declared neelgai as vermin for the same reason and in June 2016 200 were shot dead.) They are certain that drugged monkeys from other places are being dumped at night in adjoining forest areas because such relocated monkeys are always aggressive and violent, and in their minds not Hanuman but Bali. They therefore felt that Uttarakhand should like Himachal Pradesh declare monkeys as vermin so that they can be killed.

To everyone’s surprise around September 2014 monkeys began causing havoc in Mumbai at Bandra, Chembur, Andheri, JB Nagar, Mulund, Borivli, Goregoan, Goregoan, Gorai, etc. by scaling buildings, entering flats through windows and raiding kitchens. BWC wrote to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra pointing out that if the Forest Department and the Municipality do not capture and rehabilitate them fast enough the problem will become uncontrollable as in many cities of North India.

The Punjab Government’s plan to spend Rs1 crore on a “resource-cum-rehabilitation centre” at Patiala seemed quite ridiculous. In July 2009 they sought clearance from the Central Zoo Authority to set up an ultra-modern school to tame, train, rehabilitate and teach manners to rogue monkeys. The name of the facility did not indicate it was a circus but the monkeys housed would suffer much the same fate as those that were kept in circuses for performances that were banned due to the cruelty involved. BWC protested and was told such training would not take place – we sincerely hope so.


Baby monkeys, snatched from their mothers in the wild, teeth extracted and tortured into life-long submission, are also made to perform silly tricks while being tied to a rope, dogs made to jump through rings of fire, parrots in tiny cages made to pick up tarot cards. The training of such animals and birds is undoubtedly very cruel and based on intimidation, hunger and fear. If we want to see an end to such sickening roadside performances we must never stop to watch.

The Alpenliebe sweets’ unique role reversal advertisement created by McCann Erickson, between a madari and monkey is refreshingly delightful and makes people think.

The madari or bandarwalla makes the poor monkey or monkeys he has trained (read tortured into submission) perform tricks, dance, play a drum or tambourine, wear colourful clothes, and even smoke a bidi, for a roadside gathering, at the end of which spectators drop coins in a tin (a form of begging) and the man and his monkeys move on to give more such performances. Some times monkeys are made to directly beg like the two monkeys found to be begging under Delhi’s Mayapuri flyover in February 2015.

Although the Government of India Notification does not allow monkeys to be exhibited or trained as performing animals, they do exist, may be because the government has not seriously implemented a rehabilitation programme for the bandarwallas whose profession is hereditary. They could have as well started with the madaris of Dasna, a village on the outskirts of Delhi, or the Kalandar community living in settlements in Haryana like at Rindakhera village (Sector 25), Hodal town, or at Idgah colony in Sonepat, where following two public protests at Delhi, rehabilitation talks fizzled out in 2000.

However, the bandarwallas themselves are cautious because monkeys have been confiscated by the forest authorities, and therefore some of them have themselves given up road performances. A few simply sit with their bandars outside the monkey god Hanuman temples in the hope that people will give alms. Some others are now magicians like those from Vijaynagar, another place on the outskirts of Delhi. In April 2023 on Hanuman Jayanti a bandarwalla with monkeys on his bicycle were spotted at Pritampura in Delhi; and BWC was informed that monkey tamashas had restarted. BWC immediately wrote to the Chief Wildlife Warden Delhi and the Animal Welfare Board of India to take immediate appropriate action.

A 2016 investigation at a madari community’s slum in Kalwa (located in Thane, on the outskirts of Mumbai) revealed that they still use them to eke out a living for themselves and the poor monkeys often have their teeth pulled out, are beaten, deprived of food and kept in scorching heat. Those that were at the slums at the time of visiting were tied tight near the door in the hot sun. They were fed undercooked rice instead of their appropriate diet of fruit and vegetables. Others as per their routine had been taken early morning by their madaris to the Gateway of India, Thane Talav or some other tourist spots to dance and beg for money – they would return late evening.

It is no different in South India. On Chennai’s Marina Beach, baby monkeys abducted from their mothers are often found performing tricks and begging. Upon rescuing them, animal activists discovered that mother monkeys were being severely beaten or poisoned to death in order to snatch (and sell) their babies when very young.

However, the fascination of keeping a monkey as a pet has resulted in people taking them away from groups living in the wild. Monkeys are known to come onto the road looking for food that people often distribute from vehicles. For example, a monkey was forcibly taken away in a car from Varandha Ghat (Maharashtra) but since a passer-by videoed the incident including the car’s registration number, the monkey (and men) could be traced, recovered and released at the same place.

It is hoped that the rise in the number of cases of Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) or monkey fever (at first found in Karnataka alone, but then in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, spreading to Maharashtra, Goa and Andhra Pradesh), a fatal viral infection transmitted from monkeys to humans and cattle via ticks, makes people think twice before abducting wild monkeys.

Justified Retaliation

In Sizhou, Eastern China three angry monkeys turned on their cruel trainer. They could not stand one of them being viciously beaten for not riding a mini bicycle. While one twisted the trainer’s ears, another yanked out his hair and bit his neck, the third snatched up his cane and beat the dazed man senseless. Later the man rightly remarked “They were once wild and these performances don’t always come naturally to them. They may have built up some feelings of hatred towards me.”

Additionally, an international private monkey trainer who claims to rehabilitate monkeys adopted by people with no primate experience, is scared of monkeys bigger than 20 kgs because she was beaten up by an Orangutan while baby sitting it!

While BWC pats the monkeys on their backs and says “well done!” such incidents have once again clearly shown the world how cruel, unnatural and wrong it is to train animals to perform or be kept captive.

Monkey “Menace”

It is but obvious why Rhesus macaques are increasingly seen in cities, and not only in Delhi. Humans are responsible for having shrunk their habitat yet they consider them a nuisance. The fact is they have no where to go. So they steal food and attack people for it resulting in hundreds of monkey bites.

The monkeys living in our Capital have been blamed for thousands of mysteriously misplaced files in government offices. In 2007 the Deputy Mayor of Delhi was said to have been fighting a horde of monkeys on his terrace when he fell off it and died. Army personnel have for long been chasing monkeys who cross the path of ministers.

Translocation of troops has not been successful because the problem gets transferred elsewhere, added to which the poor monkeys have adjustment problems.

In January 2014, a farmer from a village located under the Palode Forest Range, near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, poisoned 7 to 15 wild monkeys because they were destroying crops and troubling people of the area.

Soon after two monkeys were shot dead by a resident of a building in Bengaluru which resulted in certain people of the area organising a shraddhanjali (function to mourn their death). Although the monkeys were mischievous, they were very much part of their lives since they fed them. A case against the killer was filed under the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972.

Humans feel that since monkeys are a menace their numbers should decrease. (Estimate at 50 million in India.) To achieve this without culling, government and wild life organisations took steps such as the sterilisation programme of Himachal Pradesh. In a decade the state claimed to have sterilised (vasectomy and tubectomy operations) nearly 1.15 lakh monkeys in their eight state-of-the-art sterilisation centres but the problem didn’t get solved. During 2015-16 there were more than 2,200 attacks/bites (average 6 cases per day) and the state government paid Rs1.01 crore to those who were attacked. Over and above which the Himachal Kisan Sabha said crop losses amounted close to Rs2,000 crore. Himachal Pradesh’s proposal to declare monkeys vermin was rejected till 2015, but in August 2016 monkeys were declared vermin in 38 tehsils of the state following which the state government announced an incentive of Rs300/- for killing a monkey. Since religious sentiments prevented people from killing them, in April 2017 the state government decided to constitute a special eco-taskforce in scientific culling of monkeys in the 53 tehsils and Shimla (town) where they had by then been declared vermin. In addition, a Rescue Centre for Life Care with a capacity of housing 1,000 rogue and sterilised monkeys would be opened at Shimla.

As of 2019 there were about 8 monkey sterilisaation centres spread across Himachal Pradesh where trappers brought monkeys for sterilisation using laser vasectomies in males an endoscopic thermocauteric tubectomies in females. While the number of monkeys in the state had reduced from 3.2 million in 2004 to 2.1 million in 2015 incidences of violence remained more or less the same. Since the Agra District Administration also tried capturing and operating the monkeys but the number of attacks did not go down, the Government of India was considering alternate means of population control – Immunocontraception, a technique which involves the administration of a vaccine that creates a temporary immune response against a protein or hormone crucial to reproduction however this has a number of drawbacks even if given orally as a pill.

A pilot project for sterilisation of monkeys in Uttarakhand was also launched. And, in 2014 Karantaka had sent officials to Himachal Pradesh to learn about the programme. Soon after of the President of India’s visit to the Vrindavan temple when he had been advised not to wear his spectacles because monkeys were liable to snatch them, the demand to allow their 2 lakh and fast growing population in Brajbhoomi (Mathura and Vrindavan) to be sterilised was put forward in January 2015. Monkeys, like cows are considered sacred and so no one wants to hurt them. Although vegetable sellers in the area do keep catapults ready with stones which the monkeys certainly fear. Whereas it is not known if any sterilisation measures were undertaken and if it was so to what extent, catching them and releasing them far away did not work. Therefore in 2019 the MP from Mathura again raised the issue in the Lok Sabha saying that monkeys were falling prey to the scourge of junk food, samosa, kachori and Frooti in particular, and suggested that monkey safaris be created to address the issue of loss of habitat and to ensure that they go back to eating natural and healthy fruits.

The Central Zoo Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Primate Centre of California (USA) to find ways to address the problem. Monkeys that can be captured are sterilised, whereas oral contraceptive mixed in food is given to roaming groups.

In December 2014 after refusing to declare monkeys as vermin, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change issued a notification seeking opinion from states on the menace caused by neelgais (blue bulls) and wild boars. Subsequently, Uttarakhand declared neelgai and wild boar as vermin. As per law vermin can be killed by anyone.

Reports of monkeys destroying crops continue to come in mainly from Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Bihar, Maharashtra, Telengana and Karnataka. But for reasons best known to them farmers do not use simple remedies such as covering their crops with nets or using drip irrigation which repels monkeys. According to the Primate Research Centre at Jodhpur, every day over 1,000 monkey bites are reported in India. They are accused of encroaching, destroying and robbing. More often than not, it is not their fault. For example, in 2018 at Fatehpur in UP, monkeys picked up a bag containing crude bombs and dropped it on people at a bus stop thus injuring three. The fault is of the manufacturer, firstly for making the bombs, and secondly for dumping them with garbage.

An unbelievably cruel ultrasonic monkey repellent is now being marketed. People who use them do not realise that the sound emitted can, even though it can not be heard by humans, harm themselves and others, pets included. The waves attack and damage the auditory and nervous systems causing pain and discomfort – could even kill some creatures. Without taking permission from the Forest Department and despite objections raised by the local SPCA, a school in Kodaikanal was planning in 2015 to install this contraption.

Monkey Meat

In April 2014 hundreds of monkeys were slaughtered at Ambagarh Chowki in Rajanandgaon district about 80 kms from Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh state. The animals had been killed, cut into pieces, boiled and packed. The meat (including monkey brains) is illegally exported to countries such as Africa, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China.

The forest department is to blame for negligence because monkeys, foxes, jackals and mongooses are poached every summer by nomadic tribes from Andhra Pradesh who visit Bastar and kill snakes too.

Monkey Research

India has 6 biomedical research institutions wherein about 300 monkeys are used. A scientist of the Primate Research Laboratory of the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru has stated that they are all procured from the wild, no captive breeding is undertaken.

Rhesus macaques for biomedical research in USA are reported to be smuggled out of India via Nepal. Till 2009 Nepal used to legally export captive bred monkeys for biomedical research. In 2015 forest officials said each monkey fetched $14,000 in the international market.

However, research on monkeys was lessening in America – at long last! Following a 7-year grassroots and lobbying effort in America by the White Coat Waste Project to defund the US Food and Drug Administration’s National Center for Toxicological Research, the FDA closed its biggest primate lab in December 2022 and cut down testing on monkeys by 63%. WCW is the only organisation in the United States to have successfully shut down government primate labs or any monkey tests in nearly a decade.

In fact, there are even periodic individual attempts to smuggle out monkeys from India like in September 2012 when a man flying to Dubai was arrested during his security check at New Delhi international airport for trying to smuggle out a loris in his underwear. Another loris was later found abandoned in a dustbin. (It is not uncommon for people to try to smuggle small living wildlife in their underwear – during the same week 10 turtles were found on a man flying from Mumbai to Bangkok.)

In 2014 three major German carmakers financed researchers who used monkeys to test the health effects of diesel exhaust. The experiments were commissioned by the European Research Group on Environment & Health in the Transport Sector known by its German initials EUGT. Years later in 2018 on being reported by the New York Times, it resulted in a lot of negative media coverage.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai’s team after many attempts (of playing God and torturing creation) in 2018 succeeded cloning two monkeys Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, using the same technique that produced Dolly the sheep in 1996.

It is unfortunate that in 2023, Sri Lanka negotiated with China to supply 1 lakh Toque macaques (classified as endangered on the IUCN red list) that were damaging crops supposedly for exhibiting at over 1,000 Chinese zoos, but it was suspected that they would be used for experimental purposes.


In contrast the residents of a town in Punjab called Lehragaga (near the Punjab-Haryana border, 40 km from Sangrur) never hurt a monkey.

When in the late 1980s a monkey was shot, prior to cremating it, people paraded its corpse through the town, following which a temple was built in its memory.

Lehragaga is the abode of two groups of monkeys: one group lives inside the town while the other group near the canal, outside the town. Legend says that several centuries back the town folk had to plead with the monkeys to return because after they had been shooed away to live in the forest, famine occurred in Lehragaga. They therefore continue to fear the wrath of the monkeys and have learnt to live with them.

A WhatsApp video received in April 2019 showed a monkey being served at a langar at the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara in Delhi. The animal was being served and alongside humans and was calmly sitting and eating.

Last, but not least, it has been observed that most people do not consume non-vegetarian food on Tuesdays for Lord Hanuman, the Monkey god, so much so, that years back Indian Airlines completely stopped serving non-vegetarian snacks on this day of the week.

Page last updated on 12/03/24