Shimla: No monkey business any more - at least in tourist hotspot Shimla. Declared vermin, the marauding monkeys will be shot down in areas outside forests to check their menace.
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, in a communication to the Himachal Pradesh government on March 14, declared the rhesus monkey as vermin within Shimla's municipal limits, which legally allows their elimination.
Forest Minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri told IANS that the permission to cull them will be valid for six months in the municipal limits alone, excluding the forest areas. Hailing the decision, which followed several requests from the state, he said the culling would go a long way in mitigating the damage to human life, crops and other state property.
The minister said 39 out of the 75 tehsils in 10 of the 12 districts have been identified by the state forest department as monkey hotspots.
A hotspot means a place of maximum conflict with humans.
The maximum of seven monkey-affected tehsils are in Kangra district, followed by Una, Bilaspur and Sirmaur districts (five each) and Shimla (four).
In a written reply during the ongoing budget session, Bharmouri informed the assembly that the attack on humans in the state has increased since 2006.
In 2013-14, the maximum 513 attacks were reported.
In the last three years, there were 674 attacks on humans by the monkeys and the sufferers were compensated Rs.28 lakh (more than $42,000) during this period.
The minister said the state has been conducting a monkey sterilization programme since 2006 and more than 51 percent of the monkeys in the state have been neutered.
Quoting the agriculture department report of 2014, Bharmouri said monkeys and other wild animals damaged agricultural crops worth Rs.184 crore annually.
He said the loss to horticulture crops was estimated at Rs.150 crore between 2006 and 2014.
On the high court order in January 2011 putting on hold permission to farmers to shoot monkeys, Bharmouri said the government would apprise the court of the latest permission granted by the centre.
"The case is listed for hearing on April 13 and we are hopeful we will convince the court to provide immediate relief," the minister said.
He clarified that after being declared vermin, individuals who anticipate a threat to their self or property were free to kill monkeys.
Animal protection groups, however, are outraged.
"Killing monkeys is not a solution," argued US-based Humane Society International campaign manager N.G. Jayasimha.
He told IANS that they would soon take legal recourse to save the monkeys.
Himachal Pradesh is home to 207,614 monkeys as per last year's census against 226,086 in 2013. Till March 31, a total of 108,325 monkeys were sterilised at eight centres.
Their number was the highest at 317,512 in the 2004 census.
The monkey census says there are about 2,452 monkeys within the Shimla municipal limits, which is higher than their number registered in 2013.
Marauding monkeys, prowling in gangs on Shimla's streets created panic among residents and tourists. They have been causing havoc by biting passersby and snatching food.
Shimla Municipal Corporation deputy mayor Takinder Panwar said on an average, more than 100 dog bite and over 60 monkey bite cases are being reported every month in the Rippon Hospital alone.
He said the monkey menace has reached an alarming proportion and needs to be tackled scientifically.
In localities like Jakhu, Tutikandi, Nabha, Phagli, Kaithu, Summer Hill, Tutu, Boileauganj, Chotta Shimla and Sanjauli, the residents have literally converted their houses into jails by erecting iron grills on the doors and windows to check the intrusion of monkeys.
Wildlife officials said around eight years ago the monkeys were trapped from Shimla and banished to the jungles and that was the best technique to reduce their population.
"Now their population has grown manifold and they need to be relocated once again rather than going for culling," said an official.