Monkeys Are Machiavellian, Too

Wild monkeys assaulted the deputy mayor of New Delhi on Saturday as he sat on his terrace, reading the morning paper. In the scuffle, S.S. Bajwa lost his balance, tumbled from his building, and died the next day from injuries sustained in the fall.

The attackers were rhesus macaques, which have overrun parts of Delhi in the past, harassing its citizens with bites and pinches during their endless raids for food. The mischievous monkeys have even been known to break into government ministries, tearing up documents and filching snacks from bureaucrats in the Indian capital. (FWIW, Slate offers some helpful tips on how to survive your next monkey attack.)

Saturday’s tragedy has attracted new attention to Delhi’s decades-old simian scourge, drawing a pledge from the government to do more to herd the offending monkeys out of Delhi. But all previous efforts have failed. It’s not difficult to see why — humans have a hard enough time controlling urban pests when their adversaries aren’t two-foot-tall anthropoids with an almost human intelligence.

It’s the particular kind of intelligence macaques possess that has allowed them to flourish not just in Delhi, but in cities and the countryside across much of southern Asia. Meanwhile many smarter and bigger-brained primates teeter on the brink of extinction. Primate researcher Dario Maestripieri likes to call rhesus smarts macachiavellian intelligence, and says that we would be wise to think of the rhesus when we look at “that other monkey in the mirror.” It turns out, when it comes to aggressive enforcement of social hierarchy and grasp of economic necessity, macaques act remarkably like humans do.

Rhesus monkeys have long been used by scientists trying to understand human physiology (a macaque was the first primate ever to rocket into the stratosphere, and we owe our ability to identify human blood types to research done on rhesus monkeys). More and more, science is coming to understand what the macaque can teach us about our economic instincts as well.

If Saturday’s tragic attack does lead to an effective crackdown on rhesus monkeys in Delhi, will it be because they crossed that Machiavellian line into being hated more than they are feared?


visvanathan

i find it offensive that whenever the media refers to Hindus who are standing up for their beliefs, they are invariably called "hardliner Hindus"...if either Christians or Muslims do the same that label is less freely flung around for fear of insulting them and causing a ruckus...why not treat ALL religions EQUALLY...and don't call ANYONE "hardliners" just because they are resisting an atheistic anti faith congress party governements purely mercantile aims.

in regard to Sri Rama's alleged "mythological" status...really there is no more proof of the existence of either Jesus or Mohammed, than there is proof of Sri Rama's existence...actually one could safely say, by the existence of the Rama Sethu, that there is MORE proof of the existence of Lord Rama and His Monkey army (including Lord Hanuman), than there is of either Jesus OR Mohammed...has anyone found ANY hard physical proof of their existence? this bridge consitutes hard physical proof of the Ramayana story for those Hindus who revere Lord Rama or Lord Hanuman...so to dredge a canal right through the bridge would rightfully offend those believers...and justifiably they should have the right and opportunity of objecting publicly to such a treatment of their "sacred site"....what would Christians say if the city of Rome wanted to build a super highway right through the Vatican...what would Muslims say if the government of Saudi Arabia wished to build a canal right through the "kaaba" at Mecca? i daresay there would be riots...

so i would humbly suggest that when the media is talking about Hindus standing up loudly for their faith, one should not automatically use the "hardliner", "fundamentalist" group of words.

Read more...

Amit

And when they play poker it's only for money.

Gaurav

Hi,

I think one of the biggest reason is that in India culling monkey population is a big no no due to their place in mythology. In fact truth be told except (possibly) for rats,snakes and pigs it is very difficult to cull any animal population.

Jamie McGinnis

This is all part of the Animal Revolution that Tony Kornheiser has been warning us about for years. Finally, the mainstream media is catching on. It is about time we fought back.

Dr. Troy Camplin

Ooo, can we get some of those and put them in Washington, D.C.

Andy

@ Dr. Camplin - You already elected one President, how many more do you need?

Winter

Has anyone else noticed how the "monkey attack" story have become the new "bus plunge" story?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_plunge

I'm not sure if Drudge is the one personally responsible for the up-tick in the number of these stories being reported, or if he's just reflecting the black humor of a some small group of AP hacks.

luke

pigs are easy to cull?

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=2650348

jaacob

i think there's a pretty clear reason for this recent homicide: the indian government recently questioned the existence of the hindu monkey god, ram. actually, they denied his existence, then recinded their statement.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6994415.stm

Angeline Duopu

I read this article about terrorist forest fire. But the problem here is I just don't know what author is talking about in this article. could it be about terrorist I just don't understand.

Drew

For the sake of clarity, I must interject here and explain that the Hindu monkey god is Hanuman, not Ram. Ram is a god, and is in fact the main character of the Ramayana ("The Acts of Ram"), but he is no monkey. On another note, I find this post to be very interesting because of the question of animals--in this case monkeys--and their status as objects of reverence due to religious mythology. I would be hard pressed to attribute the government's inability to get rid of monkeys to anything in relation to Hanuman. First, Hanuman has been depicted as both a macaque and a langur. Second, and I think most important, is the fact that many Indians threaten macaques with sticks (justifiably so) when they approach; this is simply no way of treating a supposedly divine animal.

Kapil

Some of the relevant reasons might be... people feed these monkeys ( the Hindu god Rama's biggest devotee was a monkey Hanuman, and it was his army of flying monkeys that helped defeat the demon king Ravana in the epic Ramayana) ... but I think the monkey specific element is often played up, general vermin control in Indian cities is bad (though monkeys are among the more dangerous creatures on the streets) .... so I think it is a general aversion to kill animals (not for food).

As for the monkey specific thing, the municipal authorities in Delhi had until recently only 3 monkey catchers (two of them Muslims, who thankfully don't have hang ups about monkeys) who had a terrible success rate.... 2 monkey catchers have been "imported" from South India now, and as they don't speak the local language, they not only make a living for themselves but also employ a full time translator...

Another strategy, to keep the monkeys off key ministerial buildings is to use larger, trained langurs to keep them off... a langur working in South block in Delhi can make as much as an entry level call center employee....

These are urban monkeys and most experts agree they really can't survive in the wild (though wherever they have been let into the wild they do prove to be more aggressive than the native monkeys and scare them off)

Read more...

Toni

The answer is clear--POPULATION CONTROL! If humans weren't taking over more and more of the earth, the animals weould have plenty of room and food supply of their own. Christopher Reeves put it clearly--all the problems in the world can be traced back to human over-population. We aren't the endangered species.

visvanathan

i find it offensive that whenever the media refers to Hindus who are standing up for their beliefs, they are invariably called "hardliner Hindus"...if either Christians or Muslims do the same that label is less freely flung around for fear of insulting them and causing a ruckus...why not treat ALL religions EQUALLY...and don't call ANYONE "hardliners" just because they are resisting an atheistic anti faith congress party governements purely mercantile aims.

in regard to Sri Rama's alleged "mythological" status...really there is no more proof of the existence of either Jesus or Mohammed, than there is proof of Sri Rama's existence...actually one could safely say, by the existence of the Rama Sethu, that there is MORE proof of the existence of Lord Rama and His Monkey army (including Lord Hanuman), than there is of either Jesus OR Mohammed...has anyone found ANY hard physical proof of their existence? this bridge consitutes hard physical proof of the Ramayana story for those Hindus who revere Lord Rama or Lord Hanuman...so to dredge a canal right through the bridge would rightfully offend those believers...and justifiably they should have the right and opportunity of objecting publicly to such a treatment of their "sacred site"....what would Christians say if the city of Rome wanted to build a super highway right through the Vatican...what would Muslims say if the government of Saudi Arabia wished to build a canal right through the "kaaba" at Mecca? i daresay there would be riots...

so i would humbly suggest that when the media is talking about Hindus standing up loudly for their faith, one should not automatically use the "hardliner", "fundamentalist" group of words.

Read more...

Amit

And when they play poker it's only for money.

Gaurav

Hi,

I think one of the biggest reason is that in India culling monkey population is a big no no due to their place in mythology. In fact truth be told except (possibly) for rats,snakes and pigs it is very difficult to cull any animal population.

Jamie McGinnis

This is all part of the Animal Revolution that Tony Kornheiser has been warning us about for years. Finally, the mainstream media is catching on. It is about time we fought back.

Dr. Troy Camplin

Ooo, can we get some of those and put them in Washington, D.C.

Andy

@ Dr. Camplin - You already elected one President, how many more do you need?

Winter

Has anyone else noticed how the "monkey attack" story have become the new "bus plunge" story?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_plunge

I'm not sure if Drudge is the one personally responsible for the up-tick in the number of these stories being reported, or if he's just reflecting the black humor of a some small group of AP hacks.