Monkey population exploding as Himachal sterilization program boomerangs

Shimla: Jostling for space, man – monkey conflict in Himachal Pradesh is getting more intense by the day as a state culling directive was stalled by the courts, a primate park scheme ended in utter failure and a monkey sterilization program has come about to haunt farmers, school children and others.

Former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal credited with having launched the simian sterilization program launched in 2006-07 has had enough of the center operating at Sastar village in Hamirpur district.

Children and women face the brunt of monkey attacks in Shimla
Children and women face the brunt of monkey attacks in Shimla

In a letter to chief minister Virbhadra Singh and forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmour, Dhumal has apprised the duo about what a nuisance the sterilization has become for Sastar villagers.

“The sterilization centre should be closed at the earliest as it has become the major reason for increase in monkey count in the area,” says Dhumal.

Dhumal, who is also the opposition leader, in the letter alleges that forest department employees were releasing the monkeys brought from other areas for sterilizations around the center itself that was responsible for rapid increase in their numbers in nearby villages.

“Monkeys are attacking people, children, especially the younger ones and the condition of farmers has worsened as the crops were being destroyed year after years,” says the leader.

Daring monkeys keep shopper at bay on The Mall Shimla
Daring monkeys keep shopper at bay on The Mall, Shimla

He pointed out that the issue was raised during the monsoon session but no concrete policy had been brought forth to control the states exploding simian population.

JP Nadda as Himachal forest minister had launched a primate park scheme in 2008, where plans were drawn to attract monkeys away for human habitation areas by providing food and planting fruit trees in jungles. Only a year later the experiment tried out in Tara Devi jungles near Shimla was more or less abandoned as it failed miserably.

A court in January 2011 had struck down a government’s decision for issuing permits to farmers for shooting marauding monkey gangs destroying crops.

Farmers across the state have been facing the brunt of monkey menace and have regularly agitated over the issue but no solution is in sight.

Sterilization was mooted as the shortest route to containing the monkey population but with the opposition leader seeking shutting down of a sterilization center, the program too has boomeranged.

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik has nurtured Hill Post for over a decade. A chequered path had him drift from managing family owned apple orchards, to turning a documentary filmmaker, to a journalist - with India’s leading television networks and newspapers, to boot strapping in founding Start-Ups. He lives in Shimla.

1 Comment

  • The major and long standing issue around rising monkey populations, despite sterilization, is the failure of Municipal and urban bodies to effectively manage garbage. Garbage heaps are getting bigger by the day, but the systems to deal with them are hopelessly out of date, Swacch Bharat notwithstanding. More open garbage means more food for monkeys (and cattle and stray dogs) and when ‘food’ is plentiful, they will multiply. The feeding of monkeys on highways and around temples is another factor favouring monkey multiplication.

    A big gap in our information is that we do not have a scientifically and statistically valid census of monkeys in the state. The figures touted all these years by the forest department are poor indefensible, guesstimates. So impact and trends/ changes in monkey populations, rural and urban, post sterilization are not there.

    Generally, governments want to make political capital out of such issues; so when it suited them a slew of monkey sterilization centres were opened without thought to their management and efficacy and sustainability. AT the same time, getting a few lakhs to carry out studies on monkey behaviour and breeding behaviour, post sterilization, were promptly turned down with the result that neither science nor documentation informs decisions on monkey menace / population management. Responses are knee jerk reactions which suit the ruling dispensation.

    The biggest failure in tackling the monkey problem has been the inability of government to involve local people.

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