They have come back from their hilltop lairs to reclaim their land. They have been ‘attacking’ citizens of the Federal Capital to protect their encroached territory.
They are wild monkeys who have bitten and injured at least 10 children in Sector G-6/3.
Residents have shown little fondness for their simian cousins and their problems have been compounded by the health department, which has no stock of anti-rabies vaccine to treat victims.
Talking to The Express Tribune, residents of G-6/3 said that on Tuesday night they caught one monkey and shot and injured another. Both monkeys later got away.
Talha Saad, a resident of G-6/3, said that for the past week, monkeys have been injuring local children and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has failed to catch a single one of the higher primates.
He said that monkeys target children living in servant quarters and they also attack when they see kids playing outside their houses.
Saad said that he had recently seen a monkey hanging out on his terrace for a whole day, before it finally came down and started attacking people.
“They attack children’s thighs by biting or scratching,” he said, adding that Polyclinic Hospital had no anti-rabies vaccine available to treat the victims, who were asked to purchase it from the nearby pharmacies.
“These children are poor and not entitled. They cannot afford to buy the vaccine; each shot costs Rs750 and the entire course requires at least fourteen shots,” he said.
Neighbours have collected money for these children to get initial treatment but they are unsure where they will get the rest from.
Additionally, he claimed that the vaccine they got from the National Institute of Health (NIH) was past its expiry date.
Polyclinic Hospital Deputy Executive Director Dr Iftikhar Naru said the hospital does not store anti-rabies vaccine as all vaccination is done at NIH.
Imtiaz Ahmed, another resident of the street where children were injured, said the situation has created panic and fear. “It is terrifying to see monkey attacks and kids screaming for help,” he said.
Three children, Eman (6), Faizan (10) and Umair (10) are among those seriously injured in monkey attacks, Ahmed said.
“They do not have any specific time, whenever they feel like it they come down from the trees and attack, then go back and vanish,” he said.
CDA Spokesperson Ramzan Sajid said the authority is making “all-out efforts” to catch the monkeys by taking all preventive measures, for which they have constituted a team to monitor the monkeys’ movements at different times. “We have also placed cages in which we have placed food to catch monkeys,” he added.
Sajid said the heads of the concerned departments are also regularly visiting the area.
“The authority is not acting on a mass level as it will only create panic and fear when the issue is not even that big,” he said. Only a few children have received injuries and even those are minor, he added.
He noted that monkey’s only bite or attack when they are being harassed or teased, or if their children are threatened.
Ramazan driving monkeys downhill
But why have these monkeys left their mountain hideaway and begun an assault on the city centre?
CDA Environment Wing Director General Sheikh Suleman said, “It’s the first time that the monkeys have come down to residential areas, and is probably because of Ramazan.”
Usually people going to Pir Sohawa or Daman-e-Koh give morsels and leftovers to them, but due to Ramazan, fewer people are going to these sites.
This means less food for the monkeys, “who must have come down in search of food,” he added.
Shafiq Khan, protection staff on Margalla Hills, agreed that the monkeys are driven by hunger, and that one of the major reasons behind monkeys coming to residential areas is overloaded trash cans. “They come here in search of food,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2011.