Archives quotidiennes : 29 septembre 2010

Interspecies policing: call the langur monkeys!

We all know about police dogs, but who could have imagined police-trained monkeys? Well, in India, they could, and they did!

It’s on Boing Boing (where else), quoting an article from the Kenyan newspaper website Daily Nation:

The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has a regular team of 28 langurs which are used to scare away their weaker brethren in VIP areas of the city, but 10 more have been brought in from the neighbouring state of Rajasthan. Four of them will be posted outside the boxing complex with their handlers, while another four will patrol the hockey complex. Two have been kept in reserve to respond in the event of an emergency.

Sounds a little strange, but in fact it’s very logical: the Gray langur (Semnopithecus entellus), or Hanuman langur in Hindi, a largish simian species very common in India, is well-known and quite well accepted by the population. (Being related to the god Hanuman helps, of course.)

They already often roam freely in the cities, are mostly diurnal, quite intelligent, and all in all make better neighbours for humans than smaller monkeys, wild dogs or even snakes. Such pests not being welcome in the sporting compounds during the Commonwealth Games, it makes sense that the New Delhi police has resorted to the help of the good old langurs to keep them away!

But we Westerners shouldn’t be so surprised at this kind of «interspecies policing»: what are cats on a farm, or Peregrine falcons at airfields, but specially selected and/or trained animals that live alongside human activities and help us by scaring away other, less welcome, species?

We just need to think of the Gray langur as a member of that very special club of «commensal peacekeepers», just like Felis silvestris, ssp. catus, and Falco peregrinus.