The furry, well-muscled hero of the Ramayana, Hanuman, could probably pound Arnold Schwarzenegger into jello. But would he like living in a cramped cage on top of Grizzly Peak near Berkeley, California? Doubtful. A colony of Hanuman's descendants-the langur monkey species-have lived in cages on Grizzly Peak since 1972, the subjects of mother/infant separation experiments conducted by an anthropologist with the university at Berkeley. [See Hanuman story in Volume 10/No. 10.]
She had brought the Hanuman langurs from India. The experiments were cruel-imagine your infant child being permanently taken from you-and regarded by scientists as useless. It was obvious the type of extreme distress this will evoke. And as the Hanumans have a delicate digestive system, many of them suffered and died from nutritional maladies. A recent report states that 70% of the colony has died in captivity. Twenty-two are left at Grizzly, a biting cold, wind-swept peak.
Since 1987, Professor Heimpel, of the university, has been struggling with campus officials to release the Hanumans and return them to their natural or an appropriate habitat. A Hanuman Coalition animal rights group was formed, but to no avail as the university was already squaring off with animal rights advocates over a $14 million animal research facility. Heimpel appealed to the public through news media for assistance in locating habitats for the Hanumans.
Mrs. Bhavani Param responded to an idea from HINDUISM TODAY publisher, H.H. Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, that the Kauai Westin resort on Kauai, Hawaii, would want some langurs for their 70-acre watercourse-and islands environment. Mrs. Param contacted Pat Dunn, head of the resort's animal husbandry. Dunn was interested, but said the board would take up to four months to approve the transfer. Mrs. Param began writing and burning prayerful notes to Lord Hanuman through a temple homa fire. Unexpectedly, Dunn notified Mrs. Param that an anticipated troop of primates for the resort had been cancelled. They could now take one male and three females from the Grizzly Peak station. Negotiations are currently under way between Dunn and the Berkeley campus.
Mrs. Param also arranged for a tour of the Grizzly Peak Station for a class from a local Hindu school. She notes, "The monkeys were in better shape than we thought they would be. But the monkeys were cold and very nervous. They refused to go into a heater room because it was so small they were forced too close to each other, violating social boundaries."
The class, who had to wear masks to prevent microbe transmission, recorded their impressions later back at school. Reshma Devam, 12: "When I first saw them cooped up in the cages, a shock of sadness went through my body. Even though they looked healthy, they looked very sad. It made me wonder how it would feel if I was caged." Jothi Param, 13: "They did show compassion for each other." Kumar Shankara, 12: "I don't how anyone could hold monkeys or any animal to study." Nathan Sendan, 12: "It made me feel really bad about how our species, man, was keeping another species in cages, as if they were inferior." Kumar Peruman, 13: "I think that all animals should be treated with respect and left in their own environments."
Article copyright Himalayan Academy.