NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian officials preparing for the G20 summit next week have hired teams of "monkey-men" and erected primate cutouts to deter marauding monkeys from munching on the floral displays laid out for global leaders.
New Delhi's city council has hired more than 30 "monkey wallahs", or "monkey-men", who mimic the hoots and screams of the aggressive langur monkey -- the natural enemy of the smaller rhesus macaque primates who wreak havoc in the capital's leafy government areas.
"We can't remove the monkeys from their natural habitat, so we have deployed a team of 30-40 men who are trained to scare away monkeys," Satish Upadhyay, the vice-chairman of the New Delhi Municipal Council, told AFP on Wednesday.
"We will deploy one man each at the hotels where the delegates would be staying, as well as in places where monkey sightings have been reported."
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.
The Delhi metropolitan area, home to around 30 million people, has been on an intense beautification drive since India assumed the G20 presidency last year.
Police have readied a near-shutdown of the centre of the capital for the September 9-10 summit, with roads blocked and a holiday declared with businesses shut.
- 'Change a monkey's mind?' -
But worries that troops of monkeys may charge in front of the conveys of cars ferrying presidents and prime ministers from the Group of 20 nations meant the council turned to the forest department for a plan.
Life-size cutouts of the langur have also been set up in a bid to scare away the monkeys, and the city will also move them around to convince the macaques that they are real. For decades, Delhi's streets were patrolled by men with trained langurs, but that practice ended when a court ruled that keeping them in captivity was cruel.
In other parts of the city, watchmen use slingshots and sticks to ward off the animals. The monkeys also become wise quickly -- when a plastic langur was set up, playing recorded sounds of the animals, it lasted only three days before monkeys tore it to pieces.
Some have questioned how effective the monkey policy will be. The Times of India asked Wednesday: "How many langur cutouts does it take to change a monkey's mind?"