Mumbai: Is the forest department ignorant towards monkey rescue operations?

Citizens complain that when they call the Forest Department to report a monkey that needs to be caught or rescued, they are referred to private monkey-catchers instead, who charge up to Rs 6,000

Citizens who reach out to the Forest department (FD) hoping for assistance with wild animals such as monkeys, are in for disappointment. Residents in Mulund, Borivli and other areas along the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), are dismayed by the poor response they receive from officials every time they call to report a monkey sighting and ask for help.

A langur gets treated at the Thane SPCA, after he was electrocuted while sitting on electrical wires in Mulund. An NGO took him to the SPCA on Sunday evening but he passed away in the morning yesterday
A langur gets treated at the Thane SPCA, after he was electrocuted while sitting on electrical wires in Mulund. An NGO took him to the SPCA on Sunday evening but he passed away in the morning yesterday

In fact, not only do the officials flatly refuse help, they refer callers to a private ‘monkey-catcher’, who charges up to Rs 6,000 to catch or rescue the animals. Even the FD office has a poster with the catcher’s contact details.

A poster inside the Forest Department gives contact details of a private ‘monkey-catcher’
A poster inside the Forest Department gives contact details of a private ‘monkey-catcher’

Areas such as Mulund, Borivli and Goregaon have frequent monkey sightings, as they are close to SGNP. Sometimes, the monkeys can be a menace, causing havoc by entering residential societies, while at other times, it is the monkeys who are in distress and require rescuing. In either case, the FD offers no solution.

Navin Shetty, a committee member in the residential society, City of Joy in Mulund, called the FD control room number several times on three separate occasions when monkeys had entered the complex. “I called the control room number countless times, but not even a single call was answered. This happened on all three occasions. We then asked our friends for help and were told to approach a local NGO.”

However, for most, even that option is not viable, as the monkey-catcher charges Rs 6,000 for a visit. Bharat Kalwar, manager of the Matru Ashish residential society in Gorai, said, “I had called the FD control room number when there was a monkey in one of the flats here, but the only help we received was the contact information of a private rescuer. When we called the rescuer named Shankar he told us that he would charge us Rs 6,000, which wasn’t feasible for us.”

Shakuntala Majumdar, president of Thane SPCA, said, “The FD now a days is referring callers to a private monkey rescuer who charges them. What about the paperwork and the follow up that needs to be done? How can the animals be rescued without such formalities? How are they maintaining records? Also, we are tax-paying citizens, and it is not our responsibility to pay for what should be the government’s duty.”

An FD official said on condition of anonymity, “According to an official document, monkeys are to be handled by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, as they are all over the city and the surrounding areas. But the civic body is not educated about the procedures to rescue animals, hence they put the onus on the FD. Due to this internal confusion, innocent animals suffer.”

Pawan Sharma, founder of Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare said, “We regularly receive monkey menace calls on our helpline numbers. The FD has no provisions (equipments, permits and infrastructure) to conduct rescue and rehab. The city has no facilities or protocol to deal with such incidents either.”

The other side
Kishore Thackeray, deputy chief of the Forest Department, said, “Control rooms are busy, hence it is possible that officials have missed calls, but I’ll ensure this isn’t repeated. A caller can also call the BMC for assistance, as according to a circular, BMC is also responsible to rescue the monkeys.”

On being asked about the referrals to private rescuers, Thackeray responded, “We do not ask for any money to rescue monkeys, but I will have to check why a private rescuer’s number is displayed in our department.”

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