NEW DELHI, Tuesday
Delhi authorities are to deploy a contingent of langurs -- a large type of monkey -- at Commonwealth Games venues to help chase away smaller simians from the sporting extravaganza.
From Wednesday, 10 langurs will be put on duty outside Games venues in the Indian capital, with the boxing and hockey stadiums seen as particularly vulnerable to monkey misbehaviour, an official said.
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.
"They are there for the monkey problem. They will be moving outside the stadiums," Devender Prasad, an inspector from the enforcement department of the NDMC, told AFP.
Wildlife has so far posed major headaches for the under-fire organisers, with stray dogs found in venues and a snake captured at the tennis complex.
After one of the strongest monsoon seasons in years, the capital is also struggling with a major dengue fever outbreak, caused by mosquitoes that breed in standing water.
Fish that eat mosquito larvae have been put in the pond in the Games Village to protect athletes from dengue, a viral infection transmitted to humans by the female Aedes mosquito.
Monkeys are a common sight in the verdant Indian capital, where they routinely scamper through government offices, courts and even police stations and hospitals.
In 2007, the deputy mayor of New Delhi fell to his death after being attacked by a group as he read a newspaper on the terrace of his home.
Hundreds of monkey bites are reported annually in the city, partly as a result of devout Hindus feeding the animals during ritual offerings to the monkey god Hanuman.
Langurs are an aggressive type of monkey with long tails and dark faces. They are controlled on leashes by specialised handlers, who release them once other monkeys come into sight.
The showpiece multi-sport Games, which open on Sunday, teetered on the brink of collapse last Tuesday when some nations threatened to pull out amid worries about security, a bridge falling down and the state of the facilities.
Problems plaguing the event range from shabby accommodation to security fears, as well as doubts about the quality and safety of venues and infrastructure.
Many athletes said Tuesday that conditions inside the much-criticised village were improving.
Indian organisers had forecast that the Games would be like the 2001 film "Monsoon Wedding," in which everything comes together at the last minute.