PHOTOGRAPHS: VIKAS CHOUDHARY / CSECOVER STORY
COVER STORYOUT OFCONTROLWhat has made monkeys a menaceof unprecedented magnitude?ANUPAM CHAKRAVARTTY finds theanswers as he travels to Himachal Pradesh,Uttarakhand and Uttar PradeshHIMACHAL PRADESH farmer Rajesh Bisht says he does not believe in the popularHindi proverb Bandar kya jaane adrak ka swad (What does a monkey knowabout ginger’s taste) as he stands in his ginger plantation at 4 AM to guardagainst wild monkeys. Marching through the slush in his leech-infested fieldon a cold July morning, the resident from Chaukha village in Sirmaur districtsays farmers take turns to guard against wild animals.At 10 AM, Ramesh Verma, a retired animal husbandry official who nowdoes farming in Chaukha village, hurries from his farm to attend a meetingcalled at the sarpanch’s residence to address the issue of monkey menace.Monkeys had destroyed his entire corn plantation last year. “I had invested`50,000 to plant corn on my 1.2-hectare (ha) farm. Monkeys completely destroyed it,”he says. Ironically, the drawing room where the meeting is convened has a big Hanumancalendar on its wall. “We worship Hanuman but these monkeys are not his descendants.They belong to the evil monkey king Bali who was slain by Lord Ram,” clarifies Chaukha’ssarpanch Mandakini Devi. Verma says that livelihood is more important than religiousbeliefs. “Our ancestors warned us that the day monkeys start raiding crops, you knowapocalypse has arrived,” he says.
COVER STORYRajesh Bisht stands in hisleech-infested ginger field on acold July morning at Chaukhavillage in Himachal Pradesh toguard against monkeysWhile Verma’s prediction of an apocalypse mayappear farfetched, it is safe to assume that monkeyshave left a substantial dent in the state’s agricultureproduction capacity. According to the NationalInstitute of Disaster Management, HimachalPradesh loses farm produce worth `500 croreannually due to wild animals, including monkeys.The crop loss figure is higher than what the statespends on agriculture every year. The state’s budgetaryallocation for agriculture for 2015-16 is `450 crore.O P Bhuraita, convenor of Shimla-based farmers’rights group, Kheti Bachao Andolan, says the statelost crops worth `2,200 crore due to monkeysbetween 2007 and 2012. “This includes the cost ofdiverting labour from farming to keeping a watchover the fields,” he says. Between 1990 and 2004the number of monkeys in Himachal Pradeshincreased from 61,000 to 317,000—a five-foldincrease, according to the state wildlife department.The onslaught by monkeys remains high despitedesperate measures by the state government,which has tried everything from culling tosterilising monkeys.Himachal Pradesh is one example of how badthe situation is in the country. From Jammu andKashmir in the north to Karnataka in the south,several states in the country are struggling tocontain assaults by monkeys (see ‘Cost of menace’p27). In 2013, Jammu and Kashmir agricultureminister, G H Mir, issued a statement that said250 villages in Jammu lose farm produce worth `33crore every year because of attacks by wild monkeys.The story of Uttarakhand is equally bad withvillage residents opting to sell their farmlands thangrow crops. One such village that falls in Dehradundistrict is Fulsaini, where close to 50 per cent ofcultivable land lies fallow because of destruction bywild animals such as monkeys. Fulsaini’s sarpanch,Amit Kala, says a majority of the land that is stillunder cultivation is owned by a Delhi-based farmdeveloper because many residents sold their farms ata throwaway price after monkeys started attackingtheir farms.In 2010, farmers in two of Bihar’s worst-affectedconstituencies—Chainpur and Saharsha—formed an association, Bandar Mukti AbhiyanSamiti, to pressurise politicians to act. More than50,000 farmers in the two constituencies lose cropsevery year because of monkey attacks.In Karnataka, farmers lost crops worth`5 crore in 2010 because of monkeys, accordingto the state’s agricultural department data. MediaANUPAM CHAKRAVARTTY / CSE
COVER STORYCOST OFMENACEThere is no centralised databank onmonkey raids in the country. According toofficials and media reports, 20 states/UTshave reported significant crop damagesdue to monkey attacksJammu and Kashmir`33 croreworth of farm produce is lostannually in Jammu districtbecause of attacks by monkeysUttarakhand`2 lakhis the compensation the state gives to victimsof monkey bite. Uttarakhand is the only stateto give compensations in the countryHimachal Pradesh`500 croreis the amount of crop loss thestate registers every yearbecause of attacks by wildanimals, including monkeysUttar Pradesh`2 croreis the amount Agra CityDevelopment Authority hasallocated to fight the menace16-31 AUGUST 2015Karnataka800 farmersfrom a single taluka nearMangalore gave upcultivation after monkeysdestroyed 75 per cent ofcrops in the area in 2012ILLUSTRATION: RAKU / CSEMaharashtra`6,000is the amount private monkeycatchers charge from the statefor catching one monkeyTelengana`830 croreis the amount the state government hassanctioned this year to create green islands toprovide habitation to 200,000 monkeysDelhi`8 croreis what the Delhi government has spenton feeding 19,000 monkeys that wererelocated to a sanctuary outside the cityin 2007. Still, more than 1,000 monkeyshave died so far and many more havefled the sanctuary because of hungerBihar50,000farmers were reportedlyaffected by crop raids inSaharsa district aloneSource: DTE/CSE Data Centre, August 2015www.downtoearth.org.in 27
COVER STORYSudhir Choudhary uses anair-gun to guard his marigoldshrubs against monkeys inUttar Pradesh's Nangla Mubarikvillage. Choudhary, who shifted tomarigold farming from vegetablesthis year, says monkeys continueto attack his farm even thoughthey do not eat the flowerreports suggest that crop loss because of monkeyshas increased in the state in the past five years, eventhough no government data is available. However,state forest department data suggests that close to800 small farmers gave up cultivation in the Karkalataluka near Mangalore after monkeys destroyed75 per cent of crops in the area in 2012. As a result,over 57 ha of fertile land lies fallow in the talukatoday. “Traditionally, farmers assume that around10 per cent of the produce will get destroyed bywild animals. But what do you do when the entirecrop gets destroyed,” asks Verma.Havoc in the cityNot just village residents, city dwellers are alsostruggling to cope with monkey menace. Accordingto the Primate Research Centre, Jodhpur, which isone of the three Union government-run instituteson primates, more than 1,000 cases of monkey bitesare reported every day in Indian cities. The other twonational primate institutes are located in Mysoreand Bengaluru. Almost all cities with high monkeypopulation have abundant stories of monkeys“encroaching and destroying” property and “robbing”people. In Varanasi, monkeys have literally derailedPrime Minister Narendra Modi’s plans of makingthe city wi-fi-enabled. City officials say monkeysregularly chew the optical fibre cables that have beenlaid for the scheme. They are now planning to lay thecables underground.Monkeys are wreaking havoc even in the capital.Former deputy mayor of Delhi, S S Bajwa, fell fromhis terrace and died in 2007 after monkeys attackedhim. Monkeys have also laid siege on open areasof several Delhi restaurants, including the famousIndia Coffee House. “We warn our customers notto sit outside because of monkeys. At times, 30 to40 monkeys attack together and our waiters have touse firecrackers to disperse them,” says restaurantmanager Satish. In Chandigarh, a frustrated localadministration issued an advisory to its citizenseducating them on how to handle monkeys in 2013.In Shimla, residents have covered their water tankswith barbed wires to prevent monkeys from taking adip. Haridwar residents refer to monkeys as bhikharibandar or monkey beggars because they are oftenfound near beggars and steal from people. Even theholy towns of Vrindavan and Mathura are struggling,where local newspapers regularly report stories ofmonkey attacks.28 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 AUGUST 2015
COVER STORYToo close for comfortWhy monkeys are entering human habitationsMONKEYS ARE our closest relatives in theanimal kingdom and we have alwayspeacefully coexisted and benefitted fromeach other. In fact, they are the secondlargest population in primates, after humans. Butthis relationship seems to have gone sour over theyears (see‘Monkey in our backyard’ p30).The reason is because monkeys, along with Greylangurs and bonnet macaques, have adapted tourban habitats over the years, says Goutam Sharma,a faculty member with the animal behaviour unitunder the department of zoology, Jai Narain VyasUniversity, Jodhpur. “Out of the nearly 225 livingspecies of non-human primates, these three specieshave adapted to the urban way of life,” he says.As monkeys started staying with humans, theirpopulation boomed. The International Union forConservation of Nature (iucn) lists Rhesus macaqueunder the red category of species that are leastthreatened. Experts say the reason the populationof monkeys has multiplied after their natural habitatwas destroyed is because of their ability to adapt tonew habitats. “Macaques quickly discover new foodand water sources in their environment,” says SriLanka-based primatologist Wolfgang Dittus in hisstudy of Toque macaques, a close relative of Rhesusmacaques or the common monkey. Dittus was partof a 12-member expert team that was set up in 2005by the Indian government to formulate guidelinesto effectively contain monkeys (see‘Jumpstart’ p34).“In forests, a Rhesus macaque has to spend about10 to 14 hours in search of food. However, if we lookat the street-dwelling urban monkeys or even thoseliving dangerously close to human settlements in arural setting, finding food takes only 10 minutes,”says Satish Sood, who heads one of the state-runsterilisation centres for monkeys in HimachalPradesh. “When there is food in abundance,monkeys spend more time procreating,” he says.Experts also say that the proximity to villages andcities has increased their life expectancy. “In theirnative forest homes, their numbers are kept in checkby a limited supply of natural forest foods and water.Rates of death are high among wild primates, withup to 80 per cent dying before adulthood, offsettingbirthrates,” says Dittus.Besides the behavioural shift in monkeys, theother reason for their moving to new geographicalareas is the government’s practice of translocatingmonkeys from the cities to forest areas near ruralareas. Residents of Chaukha village, which is at analtitude of 2,072 metres above sea level, say monkeyswere brought to the forests from Shimla and Mandi.“Monkeys are never found at such high altitudes. Butthe government forcefully dumped the animals inour forests,” says Verma.Even Delhi’s attempt to translocate monkeys hasbackfired. In 2007, the state wildlife department capturedover 19,000 monkeys to translocate them to awildlife sanctuary created at Asola Bhatti mines onthe outskirts of the city. While New Delhi breatheda temporary sigh of relief by the move, the residentsof Sanjay Colony near the sanctuary struggled. Theillegal colony of the Od community, who for threedecades mined Bhatti area of the Aravalli hills, registeredan alarmingly high number of attacks by monkeyswho would escape the sanctuary. “Every day, wehave 10 to 11 cases of monkey bites,” says 55-year-oldSeeto Od. She adds that they are harassed by the forestofficials if they try to chase off the monkeys. Not justthe people of the colony, even the monkeys are struggling.A member of the committee set up to overseethe translocation complained of irregularities in feedingof the monkeys at the sanctuary. In 2014, the DelhiHigh Court issued a notice against the Delhi governmentasking it to ensure sufficient food was availablefor the captive monkeys. On February 19, 2015, thecourt ordered the government to issue e-tenders tofind a new contractor to supply food at the sanctuary.In forests, monkeys spendabout 14 hours in search offood. When they move close tohuman settlements, they findfood in less than 10 minutes. Asa result, they spend more timeprocreating16-31 AUGUST 2015
COVER STORYState of mindHow state governments have responded to the monkey menaceTHE EXTENSIVE destruction by monkeyshas prompted state governments to swinginto action. They have tried various strategies—fromculling and sterilisation drives toawareness campaigns not to feed monkeys. HimachalPradesh was the first state to experiment with cullingin 2007, after farmers started protesting in Shimlaagainst government apathy. The then state PrincipalChief Conservator of Forests, Vinay Tandon, identified200 worst-hit villages and employed sharpshootersto kill monkeys. Tandon used a special provision ofthe Wild Life Act that allows the chief wildlife wardento categorise certain herds of animals as “nuisance”and culled under the supervision of the stateForest and Wildlife Department.“The state culled 480 monkeys during that phase,”says Bhuraita of Kheti Bachao Andolan. “The villagesbreathed a sigh of relief, but it lasted for onlytwo years. Monkeys returned and this time they weremore belligerent,” he adds. The state opted for cullingeven though there are studies that prove the methodmakes the animal more aggressive. It is this behaviourthat explains the attacks on ginger plantations, acrop monkeys normally don’t eat. “It is only a temporarymeasure because the void left (behind) by killedmonkeys is soon filled by other monkeys from surroundingareas. Monkeys are territorial; they monitortheir neighbour’s movements daily and discover that afood source, like garbage, crop or home garden, is leftundefended by their rival monkeys. New monkeys fillthe void… and their numbers soon swell to match theoriginal pest populations,” says Dittus. PrimatologistRaghubir Singh Pirta says culling is at best “a temporarysolution that is fast and relatively cheaper thanother methods”.Himachal Pradesh also launched a sterilisationdrive in 2007, but even that has had limited success.The state government had spent `6.4 crore toset up eight sterilisation centres. J S Walia, HimachalPradesh Principal Chief Conservator of Forests(Wildlife), says only 96,500 monkeys have been sterilisedin the state in the past eight years. The Tutikhandisterilisation centre near Shimla, the first one to be setup in the state, at present, did not have a single monkeyin the facility in July because capturing does nothappen during the breeding season. Officials say thata monkey captured for sterilisation is usually kept forthree days before it is freed in the wild. Sood, whoheads the centre that was earlier a zoo, says it has a capacityto operate on 35-45 monkeys in a day. “June andJuly are the breeding months and it is unethical to capturethem. It becomes difficult to capture the monkeysMONKEY INYOUR BACKYARDHow the primate shifted from theforests to human settlements2Humans start to disturb thenatural habitat of monkeys.As a result, monkeys turn tovillages and cities in searchof food and shelter1Monkeys are our closest relatives inthe animal kingdom. They havealways coexisted peacefully indifferent habitats and benefittedfrom each otherILLUSTRATION: RITIKA BOHRA / CSE
COVER STORYfrom August when it starts to rain. They normally stayinside forests till September and come out in Octoberwhen the food starts to exhaust in forests,” he says.The sterilisation rate at the centres has beenpoor. On an average, each camp has the capacityto sterilise 45 monkeys every day. This adds up to54,000 sterilisations every year or 430,000 sterilisationsin the past eight years. But just 96,500 monkeyshave been sterilised since 2007. The last animal censusin 2004 showed that the state had 317,000 monkeys.Sood says forest department surveys suggest crop damagein the state is done by 50 per cent of the populationor 158,500—a number that should have been sterilisedso far. According to a 2013 research carried out by A JRao, a scientist from the Primate Research Laboratoryof the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, Rheusesmacaques in south India breed at the rate of 36 per centa year, so the actual population would be substantiallyhigher. Sood adds that at least 1/3rd of the populationneeds to be sterilised to be able to arrest the rate of populationgrowth in the state, but authorities have failedto achieve the 1/3rd target. The state government plansto set up more sterilisation camps, instead of improvingthe sterilisation rate at the existing centres. “A new centreis coming up in Kullu district,” he says.The reasons for the failure of sterilisation are many.“The number of monkeys we are able to capture is low.Also, 10-14 per cent of the monkeys we capture are alreadysterilised,” says Sood. The department earlier dyedthe monkeys, but many of them would lose hair or getscarred which made it difficult for the capturers to identifythem. A wildlife officer in Shimla says there have3Over time, monkeys start tostay with humans andcompete for naturalresourcesTHINKSTOCK PHOTOMonkey businessThough now banned, monkeys are illegally exportedfrom India for biomedical researchAT A time when monkeysare destroying cropsacross the country, farmeroraganisations say thegovernment should lookat removing the ban. Indiaused to export monkeysfor biomedical research till1977, when the Janta Partygovernment at the Centrebanned it.A 2014 Wikileaks on theinternal communicationsof the US State Departmentsays the reason Indiastopped exportingmonkeys is because the USwas ``illegallyº using themfor military experiments.It says that a US-basednon-profit, InternationalPrimate Protection League,approached the Indiangovernment with evidencesthat the monkeys wereexposed to lethal neutronradiation. The Indiangovernment implementedthe ban even though theUS Department of Defencedenied the experiments.An investigation by theWall Street Journal in 2006suggests that India used toship 12,000 monkeys everyyear to the US for researchpurposes till 1977. Theinvestigation says a singleIndian monkey was sold for$80 in the 1970s. A 2002report by the ZoologicalSurvey of India says500,000 monkeys wereexported till 1977.However, forest officialssay illegal exports ofIndian monkeys continuevia Nepal and theanimal currently fetches$14,000 each in theinternational market.India has half a dozenbiomedical researchinstitutions today. Theyhave about 300 monkeysfor research, says A J Rao,a scientist from thePrimate ResearchLaboratory of the IndianInstitute of Science,Bengaluru. ``Procurementis done only from the wild,and no captive breeding isundertaken in any of thelaboratories,º he adds.Primatologists alsowarn that Indian monkeysshould not be used inresearch today as theycould have developedinfections because oftheir proximity to humansettlements. A 1999 studyconducted by primatologistIqbal Malik on 2,000monkeys captured in theHimalayan foothills foundmore than 40 per cent hadat least one potentiallyharmful disease. ``They aremore prone to infectionsbecause of increasedcontact with humans,ºsays Malik.16-31 AUGUST 2015www.downtoearth.org.in 31
COVER STORYANUPAM CHAKRAVARTTY / CSECages lie empty at thecountry's first sterilisationcentre (left) in Tutikhandi,Himachal Pradesh. Thestate administration saysit is struggling to capturemonkeys for sterilisation.Jaggu (right) keeps monkeysaway from eight farms inMuzzafarnagar district ofUttar Pradeshalso been cases where monkeys have “stolen” bait fromtraps without getting caught. Walia says a new censusis underway in which the forest department is usinggps to track the monkeys by plotting them directly ona map. They are also planning to install microchips inthe sterilised monkeys for better identification.Meanwhile, the country’s foremost wildlife researchinstitute, the Wildlife Institute of India(wii), is working on oral contraceptives for monkeysthat can be administered through food. Expertssay this will make capturing of monkeys for sterilisationredundant. “One of the main advantages oforal contraception is that it is non-surgical,” saysP C Tyagi of wii. Media reports suggest theHimachal Pradesh forest department has asked severalagriculture universities including ChaudharySarwan Kumar Agriculture University, Palampur, todevelop feed for monkeys in which these contraceptivescould be given.The state government has alsotried employing ultrasonicguns that can scare monkeysaway and createvan vatika or4Human settlements providemonkeys easy access to food.As a result, the time they spentin the wild finding food is nowbeing spent in procreation5There is a population explosion.Monkeys start stealing from humans.As a knee-jerk reaction, stategovernments undertake mindlessculling or sterilisation drives withoutunderstanding the problem
COVER STORYsmall sanctuaries for different troops. The plan to useultrasonic guns, which cost `20,000 each, was shelvedafter municipal officials said the ultrasonic frequenciesjammed phone and internet services. Wildlife departmentofficials say van vatikas were found to be unsustainablebecause of infighting within various troops ofmonkeys. Himachal Pradesh plans to spend `12 crorein 2015 to control monkey population in the state.Uttarakhand is now trying to emulate theHimachal Pradesh’s sterilisation drive, and has sanctioned`17.5 crore for the same. The statealso recently issued a notice that leviesa `200 fine on people feeding monkeys at pilgrimand tourist sites. The step was introduced after expertssaid the act of feeding makes them believe that humansare inferior to them. “Monkey society is builton a strong hierarchy of dominance, where the highestranking is free to exploit all subordinates, and soon down the line of the hierarchy… The assertion ofsocial rank translates into survival. Therefore, when ahuman donates food to a monkey, the person signalshis/her social inferiority to it,” says Dittus.Besides relocating monkeys out of the city, theDelhi government hired Gray Langur, the most commonlong-tailed monkey across south Asia, to chasemonkeys between 2012 and 2013. The practice wasdiscontinued after the Union environment ministrysaid it violated the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972,that says langurs are endangered species. The administrationthen tried to use young men dressed as langursto chase monkeys, which had limited success.Telengana, which is home to more than 200,000monkeys, has proposed to plant trees across the stateand create green islands to provide habitation to monkeys.Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao in Julythis year announced the `830-crore Haritha Haaram(Green garland) scheme. Under it, the state plans toits increase tree cover from the present 24 per cent to33 per cent. “The chief minister feels that the monkey’shabitat and food-source has been greatly depleted,”says P K Sharma, Chief Wildlife Warden, Telangana.The government plans to procure 373 million saplingsthis year, out of which 365 million will be nonfruittrees. This means that while the tree cover mayincrease in the state in the coming years, it might nottranslate to more food for monkeys.6The onslaught by humansmakes them more aggressive,increasing human-monkeyconflicts
COVER STORYJump startThe key is to understand primate behaviour and evolvemultiple strategiesINDIA FACES a monumental puzzle. Onone hand, the monkey menace has causedunprecedented damage to local livelihoods,and on the other, efforts to mitigate the crisishave not been able to match the scale of the problem.Psychologists say that once monkeys construct aniche in urban areas, their aggressive behaviouris likely to increase due to competition for foodand space.As it emerges, there are two aspects that needto be addressed: our understanding of primatebehaviour, and a consolidated national approachto the crisis. A decade ago, India took a step toacknowledge the problem. The Union governmenttasked 12 primatologists, including Iqbal Malik,Mewa Singh and Wolfgang Dittus, to prepare a planto deal with monkeys.The team submitted the Action Plan for theControl of Commensal, Non-Human Primates inPublic Places the same year. It identified 10 speciesof non-human primates in conflict with humansand recommended specific methods to handle eachone of them. The expert group also recommendedthe setting up of central and local level committeesto effectively run translocation, sterilisation andconservation programmes for various speciesof monkeys. The committees would oversee thetreatment of monkeys in captivity and maintain aregistry of the animal. But their recommendationswere never implemented. “The governmentcould not understand the magnitude of the problem,”says Malik.However, to revive the national plan to controlmonkey menace, India needs a combination ofstrategies, from a new institutional mechanismto adopting new technological solutions. First, as`Governments never listen to experts'Primatologist IQBAL MALIK isconsidered an expert onmonkey behaviour and hasauthored several papers onhuman-monkey conflicts. She was alsopart of the expert committee that wasappointed by the Union government in2005 to devise methods to containmonkey menace. In an interview withANUPAM CHAKRAVATTY, she talksabout the reasons the situation hasdeteriorated over the yearsWhy have human-monkey conflictsincreased in India?In 1989, I was part of the team thatdrafted the first plan to help the Unionand Delhi governments to translocatemonkeys from urban areas. While wewere identifying the various monkeytroops in the city, authorities wererandomly trapping monkeys and in theprocess breaking the troops. Thisresulted in the creation of many smallergroups in the city. Monkeys are territorialanimals and the smaller groups startedspreading to newer areas. One has tounderstand that monkeys easily adapt tonew surroundings.You proposed the firstmonkey sanctuary in India. Why didit not work?In 1998, I submitted a plan to the Delhigovernment on how to set up a sanctuaryoutside the city for relocating monkeys.But the government did not follow theplan. Our proposal said specific plantsshould be planted at the sanctuary sitebefore the relocation. But, thegovernment started releasing thesemonkeys in barren areas. We had alsosuggested placing PVC sheets on thesanctuary periphery to ensure themonkeys did not escape the site.Instead, the forest department usediron bars that helped monkeys escapefrom the sanctuary.What is your take onsterilisation?Catching monkeys randomly andsterilising them does not help. Oneneeds to study these monkeys beforeproposing translocation or sterilisation.Loners and alpha males have to becaught first. Authorities do not pay heedto such details.
COVER STORYLiving in denialThe Union environment ministry refuses to declaremonkeys as verminTHE MINISTRY of Environment, Forests and Climate Change(MoEF&CC) issued a notification in December, 2014, seeking opinionfrom states on the menace caused by nilgais or blue bulls and wild boars.Following the directions from the MoEF&CC, Uttarakhand declared certainspecies of nilgai and wild boar as vermin. Although both the animal speciesare protected under schedules 2 and 3 of the Wild Life Protection Act, stategovernments can now allow culling of these animals. The notification saysthat in some cases, the animals can be also be moved from schedule 2 toschedule 5 of the Wild Life Protection Act, which includes rats, crows andrabbits that are usually considered pests. According to forest officials, thedifference between vermin and nuisance is that vermin animals can bekilled by anybody, while nuisance animals can only be killed by the stateforest department.The environment ministry in March 2014 rejected a proposal by theHimachal Pradesh government to declare monkeys vermin. The ministry,instead, asked the state to scientifically identify the areas where monkeyswere wreaking havoc.proposed by the expert group, management ofmonkeys as a species needs to be brought under theUnion list of the Constitution, which will enablea national programme to monitor, control theirpopulation and plan for effective strategies. Thiswill also lead to the much-needed monkey census.A similar strategy was adopted for tigers and rhinosto protect and avoid conflicts with humans. “Fromhere, we can kick-start the next phase: mitigation andadaptation. We need to reinvent existing strategiesand incorporate innovative technologies,” says MewaSingh, a primatologist at the University of Mysore.For example, the experiences of Hong Kongand Japan combine well-targeted popularmethods like sterilisation and culling as well astechnological innovations to keep monkeys at bay.Hong Kong reported extensive crop loss becauseof monkeys till early 2000. The country then rolledout a comprehensive plan that included targetedsterilisation, strict rules on feeding and promotion ofurban forestry. Between 2008 and 2012, the birthratefell from 68.9 per cent to 30.2 per cent, according to astudy by Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2013.Japan gained control over the monkey populationwith a series of policies that included targeted culling,reviving of natural habitats and employing people toguard crops against attacks.Closer home, there are a few adaptationmeasures that have arrested the problem to a certainextent. For instance, a low-cost acoustic device—developed by the Indian Council of AgriculturalResearch (icar), New Delhi, and Via Life, aBengaluru-based company—can repel animals fromentering the farms. “The device can be customisedfor different animals and covers up to 1.61 ha offarmland. It produces distress sounds of the samespecies or sounds to keep the animals away,” saysMahesh S S Iyer, ceo of Via Life. icar had used asimilar device, Harmony Q, to protect sunflowerfarmers in Maharashtra and Karnataka. The deviceconveys the message to animals that the broadcastarea is dangerous, says Vasudeva Rao, who has beenworking with the All India Network Project onAgricultural Ornithology.In few desperate situations, farmers have evenchanged cropping pattern to evade monkeys.Farmers in Sonitpur district, Assam, who facedregular monkey raids, switched from paddyfarming to tea cultivation. “The monkeys did notattack tea plantations because of the bitter taste,”says Deep Bhagawati, general secretary of a teafarmers’ association. The farmers are now able toearn a steady margin of profit. “I think it is time, westarted protecting our crops. Farmers have to covertheir crops with nets, a practice that is successfullyfollowed in Israel,” says Malik. Simple techniquessuch as drip irrigation have been used in Israel torepel monkeys. They are scared of water, and dripirrigation constantly sprinkles water (see interview).It is easy to paint the monkey as the villain. Butnature has always pointed towards coexistence. Weneed to take a call, and, now. •With inputs from Rajeshwari GanesanFor more, log on to www.downtoearth. org.in36 DOWN TO EARTH 16-31 AUGUST 2015