No ‘monkey business’ any more


By: Kunaal Chauhan

If you cry out the word ‘monkey’ in front of any kid from Shimla, you would definitely get a scared and nervy retort. Such has been the annoyance and fright of the intimidating primates that people would rather tend to change the path from where they are walking, in case they see a herd nearby, than try to scare them away.

What makes them so different from the other stray animals that you find on the

Photo: Mohit Behl

Indian streets (dogs, cattle, rodents), is their aggressiveness and intelligence. Quite similar to us in many ways, their adaptability and ability to live off human refuse has made them a cause of concern for the human population living in the urban or rural areas alike.

Getting rid of these pesky simians has been a long drawn political agenda in the capital city. Solutions such as mass extradition to uninhabited areas or sterilization have been carried out. But how much these solutions have actually solved the problem, is a debatable topic. It is obvious that deporting them to secluded areas helps, but this species is known to travel long distances in search of food, a result of their intelligent and highly developed brain. Sterilization also helps, but finding the males and sterilizing them individually is a massive task in itself, plus also the infrastructure of our country makes it a burden on the economy. As per the Wildlife Institution of India, until 70 per cent of any species is sterilized, the population of the species cannot be controlled. Plus there is also the debate, which many wildlife conservationists put up, that this is ‘unethical’, and we are going against the law of nature.

Then is mass eradication of the species the solution? Again the answer is debatable. Isn’t that what we do to mosquitoes or other pests that trouble us. Even mosquitoes have a contribution to the overall life cycle of the planet. Why would killing the excess monkeys be a problem then?

Yes, in the wild the monkeys serve a amazing purpose, i.e. they eat the seeds of some plant, then, afterwards, through their faeces the seeds get a new and different germinating ground. But in the urban areas, where these “Rhesus Macaques” have found a safe breeding ground, even that purpose is not served.

Time and time again, due to pestilence of monkeys in the rural areas, the government has allowed controlled killing of the primates, but that has led to contradictory reactions from wildlife lovers and the wildlife protecting agencies namely Mrs Maneka Gandhi-founded PETA. And being a wildlife lover and also having an agricultural background, I myself, am caught in the dilemma, of killing the monkey, or protecting my crop.

Initially, my father, Mr Chander Chauhan, who has his agricultural land in Kotkhai, Shimla, used fireworks to scare the monkeys away, but as these primates are equally intelligent, over a period of time they got used to the drill, and would hardly react to the explosions. Then he tried his trained canines to scare the monkeys away. But the inability of the dogs to climb trees was a hindrance. And also the aggression of the monkeys is as such than rather than eating the fruit from the trees, they tend to climb on the trees and shake the branches, which leads to dropping of the fruit. So overall they cause much more harm than any other fruit-eating animals. Same would be the case for other farmers as well. So what does the farmer do, apart from killing the monkeys? Yes, some scientists do suggest the use of infrasonic sound waves to keep the monkeys away, but the practicality of the idea is yet to be proved, plus it requires a hefty investment.

The Himachal Pradesh government has spent nearly 20 crore rupees, in order to stop the ‘monkey menace’. But we all know the problem is far from being solved. I personally don’t see any improvement in the situation. So what steps can be taken in this context.

There are two very practical and efficient ways to reduce the simian population. One is to develop enclosed captivity areas for monkeys; that way they are not subjected to any cruelty, and for once the nuisance and menace of the simians can also be ended.

Second is to restart exporting of monkeys to places like Puerto Rico, which was in practice before 1978, for the purpose of lab testing. It was again stopped due to complain by Mrs Gandhi.

And last but definitely not the least, we the citizens of the state need to stop feeding the simians and also need to make sure that they do not get access to any dump or refuse. Once the monkeys will get less food, hence their chances of survival in the urban areas will be less and that will lead to a direct reduction in the population.

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  1. Himachali voters make monkey menace a big poll issue keeping aside the major issues like development , corruption,price hike etc. in Panchyat elections. It shows their Pain.The issues are simple: Are monkeys friends or foes? Are they not an invasive pest species? Why has the state government not framed a long-term policy to control the menace so far?

    “Every election brings a ray of hope but there is a disappointment in the end.
    The farmers have even started quitting the sowing of crops due to the increasing population of the monkeys. Acres of fertile land is becoming barren. This is high time to make some strong policy.

  2. very well written…
    i wasn’t aware about most facts…and 20 cr is looks an outrageous amount as I cannot spot any change in condition. There is definitely a need for the reinforcement of strong policy. Carry on the good work

  3. This is an amazin article to bring out awareness among the people of Simla specially, on how this species is making or lives harder day by day,…..and what we can do to get rid of it….Wake Up Simlaites…..!!!

  4. Simply amazing thought…..

    “1 monkey dead is 1 monkey less”

    I feel thats exactly what is required…. Impressive analysis and observation Kunaal.

  5. I never realised that monkeys could be so aggressive. I don’t think you can just sit back and do nothing if they are overly aggressive though. Not sure what the answer is, but sounds like something needs to be done.

  6. I live in Jakhoo. . Needless to say, the simian menace is always in my face. Not stepping out of the house till the monkeys kindly vacate my front porch,is an occurance that often keeps me from being on time.I can tell you that being ‘waylaid by monkeys’ is not an excuse that will get you a promotion! Unless of course, your boss has the grace to live in jakhoo.
    Kids cowering in stairways on their way to school ,is a common sight in shimla but now one often sees grown men change their course in the face of these maurading armies.My sixty year old neighbour jumped into a bush of stinging nettles as two warring factions came hurtling down the hillside.It is sometimes even amusing to see monkeys lasily sunning themselves all over Jakhoo as people lurk inside their caged balconies and terraces.To some it may seem like poetic justice.The taming of the arrogant human…… BUT there have been three monkeybites in my building alone..And I for one am angry.So unless the administration can come up with some quick solutions, I suggest the citizens get together and poison the lot. IT MAY SOUND CRUEL IN THE EXTREME ,BUT WOULDN’T YOU DEMAND THE SAME FATE FOR ANY HUMAN THREAT TO YOUR LIFE AND PROPERTY?

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