Monkey business lucrative in Himachal, literally!

Shimla: Monkey business is getting lucrative like never before in Himachal Pradesh!

More and more youngsters are hopping on to the bandwagon, with the state government disbursing no less than Rs.3 crore to them, mainly the unemployed youth, in the past three years.

The wildlife wing pays Rs.500 for leashing a monkey for sterilization.

State Forest Minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri told IANS that the scheme to catch stray monkeys was aimed at curbing their menace. It started in October 2011.

So far, 336 people have been paid over Rs.3.22 crore. A total of 94,334 monkeys have been sterilized since 2007, the minister said.

Wildlife officials said the monkey census of 2013 showed their population in the state at 236,000. This was a decline from 319,000 in 2004.

Thousands of farmers in Shimla, Solan, Sirmaur, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Una, Mandi and Kangra districts claim to have incurred losses mainly due to marauding monkeys.

The wildlife wing estimates that more than 900,000 farmers are affected by monkeys.

Officials said the government has set up seven monkey sterilization centres, each with an annual capacity of 5,000 surgeries. Two more centres are in the pipeline.

The sterilization of male monkeys is carried through the thermocauteric coagulative vasectomy technique and in females by endoscopic thermocauteric tubectomy.

Hong Kong has also adopted this as a standard technique for sterilizing macaques.

The minister said the success of the mass sterilization would be seen in the next 10 years.

"Sri Lanka is also keen to adopt this technique for controlling its population of monkeys. We have allowed them to send a team of veterinary surgeons for training," Bharmouri said.

Five states - Delhi, Haryana, Karnataka, Sikkim and Uttarakhand - and Chandigarh have sought help from Himachal Pradesh to curb their own monkey population.

The monkey menace has also been raised several times in the ongoing budget session of the assembly.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh informed the house: "Over the past few months, we are regularly urging the central government to allow export of monkeys and to declare them as vermin."

Despite the high court order in January 2011 putting on hold the state's decision to allow farmers to shoot monkeys, he admitted "culling is the most effective method to control monkey population, but it's difficult in our society for legal and other (read monkey god Hanuman) reasons".

"Sterilization is the second best solution. We are seeking advice from experts how to meet this challenge.

"So far as the law is concerned, there is no legal ban on it. I am told the high court of Himachal Pradesh has not declared the law as ultra vires but they put a temporary stay on it."

The case is still pending in the high court.

Kuldeep Singh Tanwar of Kheti Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, an NGO working for the cause of farmers, told IANS that lifting the ban on the export of monkeys for bio-medical research was the only alternative to check their rising numbers.

The central government banned the export of wild animals in 1978.

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