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The monkey menace in urban areas
How to guard against monkeys
With the scene in Agra, where monkeys are creating havoc, even killing a 12-day old baby recently, the forest department in Delhi wants people to stop feeding the simians. Failure to comply with this order may result in legal action against violators. The department said the monkeys, especially those in areas near the Ridge, were becoming dependent on humans for food and this can reduce their ability to scavenge.
“We have observed monkeys waiting on roadsides for people to stop and give them something food,” a forest official said. “The animals are being fed fruits and cooked food, which is making them increasingly reluctant to go into the deeper forests on the Ridge to scavenge for food. If food sources are readily available, they will naturally head to the city and also become more aggressive.”
The forest and wildlife department recently held a meeting with the municipal corporations and other agencies and decided to place instruction boards at all major entrances to the Ridge. These will inform people about how to interact with monkeys so they don’t become aggressive and the legal action that can be taken against people found feeding the animals. “While we have distributed information pamphlets, permanent boards will be put up at areas considered vulnerable,” the official added.
The suggestions given in the pamphlets released by the forest department ask people not to make direct eye contact with monkeys, not to feed them, not to irritate or tease them or to go near a dead or wounded simian. The instructions also say that dustbins and overhead tanks should be kept covered in residential areas, while asking people not to hit or attack the monkey as this may provoke them.
“Keep hitting the ground with a big stick to make monkeys leave your house or garden,” the pamphlet advices. Other quirky suggestions given by the forest department include placing ‘real-looking’ plastic snakes on rooftops because monkeys try to avoid them or to keep “big” dogs because monkeys tend to be scared of their presence.
The issue of the monkey menace in the capital was raised in the Rajya Sabha earlier this year, when vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu remarked how the animals were even causing menace at his official residence. Delhi high court too had remarked that the capital was ‘overpopulated’ with monkeys and solutions were needed to curb their growing numbers.
Delhi, 2017: the problem, and lack of solution
The fight of the corporations against the monkey menace in the city has become one of attrition.The number of monkey-catchers has declined sharply , and even promises of handsome rewards have failed to elicit much response.
Against Rs 800 for every monkey caught earlier, the north and south municipal corporations are now offering Rs 1,200. Yet “no agency expressed interest in the last three tenders we floated for catching monkeys“, said a north corporation official. “A group of people who came from Jaipur has also disappeared even though we paid Rs 1,200 for each monkey caught,“ he added.
The understaffed veterinary department supervises the catching and relocation of the simians for which nets are provided by the Delhi government.The corporations don't have any dedicated staff for this and that's why this problem has spiralled.
In east Delhi, 223 cases of monkey bite were reported in 2016; this year until June, the figure is 181. In north Delhi, there were 192 such cases in 2016; this year till April, the number was 46. And how bad is it in south Delhi?
Lajpat Nagar resident Anupam Trivedi said water supply to his house was disrupted a week ago when monkeys damaged the pipeline on the roof. “We had to protect the water pipeline with barbed wire.We approached south corporation but nobody listened to us,“ Trivedi said.His neighbours have done similar things. On July 17, two monkeys sneaked into the Civic Centre building and scared many corporation staff there.And even doctors at AIIMS had been forced to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July for help.
In 2013, the government had made it illegal to hire langurs to drive away monkeys as it was a Schedule II animal. And the corporations lost an important weapon in their fight against this simian menace.
In February , SDMC informed the Delhi high court that it was unable to catch monkeys and that the Delhi government's wildlife department was the appropriate authority to do so.
“The number of people who were available for monkey catching is declining.Their next generation is not interested in the job. We have a really tough time catching monkeys,“ said Suresh Chand director, veterinary services, North Delhi Municipal Corporation.
2019, Odisha/ planting guava, custard apple trees in forests
A monkey crosses the road between Lanjigarh and Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi district, Odisha, in search of food.
Odisha Forest dept. is planting guava, custard apple trees in forests
Odisha Forest department is planting guava and custard apple trees in many areas to lure the monkeys back to the forest.
Monkeys have been moving out of their forest habitats in search of food and causing trouble to the villagers as well as wildlife conservationists across the State. At the same time, the simians also face threat to their lives as they are out of their natural habitats.
Hundreds of monkeys live near the 5-km stretch between Biswanathpur and Kadalighat in Bhawanipatna-Lanjigarh Road in the Kalahandi district.
If the passers-by stop or slow down their vehicles on this stretch, monkeys rush from all sides in anticipation of food. Sometimes, the little ones even get crushed under the wheels of speeding trucks or buses.
“We have taken many steps. All along the stretch, we have put up sign boards urging people not to give food to the monkeys. Our squads regularly patrol the area to prevent people from teasing or disturbing monkeys,” said Kalahandi Division (South) Divisional Forest Officer T. Ashok Kumar.
“You cannot relocate monkeys deep inside forest here. Had it been seven to eight monkeys, we could have thought of tranquillising and trans-locating them to other places. But there are thousands of monkeys sitting on the road waiting to receive food from people,” he added.
“Once food-sharing is stopped, monkeys will feel compelled to go inside the forest. At the same time, we are also trying to enrich their habitats with food of their choice,” said Mr. Kumar.
The Kalahandi Forest Division (South) has identified 363 hectares of vacant land inside different forests to plant fruit-bearing trees, including guava, custard apple, cashew and mango, during 2019-20 season.
Four years ago, the forest personnel had planted fruit-bearing trees in 40 hectares of land under Biswanathpur forest range. “We are expecting fruits in those trees in a year. If the experiment succeeds, the drive will be scaled up,” said Forest Ranger of Biswanathpur.
However, it is not only in the Kalahandi district where monkeys have abandoned forest habitats, the menace is prevalent at major religious places and coastal region also.
2019: Order to cull HP’s ‘vermin’ monkeys draws ire
Union environment ministry has declared monkeys (Rhesus Macaque) as ‘vermin’ in Himachal Pradesh, allowing local authorities to cull this animal in certain non-forest areas in Shimla for one year. The move has, however, attracted the ire of animal rights activists.
The decision, notified last week, was taken on request of the state government which reported harm to life and property including large-scale destruction of agriculture due to overpopulation of this species outside forests.
Though Rhesus Macaque monkeys are protected species under Schedule II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the law allows for it to be hunted by declaring it ‘vermin’ for a specific period if it poses danger.
“The declaration of macaques as vermin is a fraud played by the central and state governments to cancel utter mismanagement of forests and wildlife. Himachal Pradesh forest department’s website clearly shows a marked decline in the number of monkeys in the state, yet the Centre declares it as vermin due to overpopulation,” said animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi.
Citing previous instances, she said, “The monkeys mistakenly sterilised by the government has cost the tax payer Rs 50 crore. The mass surgical sterilisation of wild animals backfired. Now a notification for killing them will only compound the blunder.”
The ministry in a notification, issued on July 11, said, “The central government has considered it necessary to balance local population of this species to mitigate the damage to human life, crops and other properties of the state for ensuring conservation of wildlife in forests.”