Monkey business: Indian officials deploy langur monkeys to help security at Commonwealth Games

By Chris Lehourites, AP
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Plan of the apes: Security staff deploy langurs

NEW DELHI — Security officials at the Commonwealth Games aren’t monkeying around anymore, deploying langurs at several venues in New Delhi to keep smaller simians from causing any trouble.

Langurs are a common type on monkey in south Asia, and because they are large and fierce they are often used in India to keep other monkeys in check in public places.

The New Delhi Municipal Council said it will put 10 langurs on duty outside several venues starting Wednesday, but that number will increase in the days leading up to Sunday’s opening ceremony.

“The additional langurs will take care of the games venues and other important areas,” the council told the Press Trust of India news agency.

Spotting monkeys in Delhi is not uncommon. The animals roam through buildings throughout city, often causing havoc as they scamper through hospitals and government offices.

In 2007, the deputy mayor of New Delhi was killed when he fell from his balcony during an attack by wild monkeys, while 25 other people were wounded when a monkey went on a rampage in the city.

The 19th edition of the Commonwealth Games, only the second to be held is Asia after Kuala Lumpur in 1998, has also seen its share of other animal-related issues, among other more serious problems already facing organizers. Besides the stray dogs that run rampant on the streets, a 4-foot cobra was found at the tennis venue and another snake was caught in a room at the athletes’ village.

Sacred cows also roam unimpeded in the capital city.

Security remains a high priority in New Delhi with thousands of heavily armed police and military personnel scattered throughout the city.

“To me, it’s great. It’s what we want at every games,” England women’s field hockey captain Kate Walsh said. “It’s definitely reassuring. I’m sure for all the girls, it’s the same.”

Besides the usual problems facing organizers as the Oct. 3-14 games near, the event was dealt another blow when South African runner Caster Semenya pulled out of the competition because of a back injury.

Semenya, who won the 800-meters world title last year in Berlin, had been the biggest star still left in the games after the withdrawal of several other high-profile athletes, including Usain Bolt, David Rudisha, Jessica Ennis and Scottish cyclist Chris Hoy.

The Commonwealth Games have been plagued by problems for weeks, most significantly at the athletes’ village, which was described as uninhabitable last week. But competitors have been moving in by the hundreds as the opening ceremony nears.

“The village is fantastic. The rooms are brilliant,” Walsh said. “The lounges are the most spacious I think we’ve probably ever had in a world sports games. We’ve settled in and made it our home for the next two weeks.”

In a continued focus on security at the event, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Wednesday it continues to receive reports of possible terrorist threats in India and issued an updated warning to travelers heading to the games.

“There is a high risk of terrorist attack in New Delhi,” the department said on its website. “Since 2000, there have been at least 14 major terrorist attacks in New Delhi on locations such as markets, train stations and other public places. These attacks have caused hundreds of deaths and injuries.”

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