The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, has designed a special mobile application to count the Rhesus Macaque population in Haryana, as part of its much-awaited 2020-21 wildlife survey.
This is the first time an application is being designed for the counting of a particular species that is not endangered and also widespread. Rhesus Macaques are protected under Schedule 2 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Haryana is among many states where the rise in monkey population has led to a rise in incidents human-animal conflict.
Haryana’s Chief Conservator of Forest M L Rajvanshi said the state has been witnessing an “unprecedented monkey menace”. Even cities that had never reported sighting any simians now complain of big groups of monkeys prowling the streets.
“Hundreds of complaints are received every month in the regional offices of the forest/wildlife department about the intrusion of monkeys in human settlements. Damage to crops, household items, attacks on children etc. are the common complaints. Before making a fool-proof strategy on how to deal with this problem, we want to know exact numbers along with specific areas that have reported such incidents. WII has assured us on this front. It is an enormous task to count the exact numbers of a species, which is not critical, rare and are widespread. We specially urged the WII authorities to count the number of monkeys.”
In the first phase, the application will be available for the forest field staff and later will be opened to NGOs and the general public, with the consent of the Haryana wildlife department.
Dr Bilal Habib, PhD, senior scientist with WII, said, “We have designed the mobile application for counting the number of monkeys. It is the first time we have designed such an app for merely counting monkeys for any state. The app will be available on Google PlayStore. The registration will need our approval, which will be given to only forest staff in the first phase. Later, we can allow the participation of the general public, NGOs. An individual will need to upload the information about the place of sighting of monkeys, their sizes, numbers and time. A person can also upload a picture of a monkey or a group of monkeys. The place of sighting must be a non-forest area. Because within the forest area, WII teams will conduct the counting. To avoid overlapping of numbers, a mechanism is already available with us. The survey will start within a fortnight.”
The last wildlife survey conducted in 2013 was confined to Kalesar National Park and Kalesar Wildlife Sanctuary. At that time, WII teams had hinted about the presence of thousands of monkeys on the basis of their presence within the forest reserve. The upcoming survey will include areas outside of forests and protected reserves.
Sources said the districts that had reported maximum complaints about monkeys include Panchkula, Yamunanagar, Ambala, Hisar, Kurushetra, Bhiwani, Kaithal, Gurugaon and Faridabad.
How the problem began
“The chopping of village forests, also known as vaaniya in rural Haryana, is one of the reasons behind the human-monkey conflict in the state, which was never prone to this problem until ten years ago. These small village forests have vanished over a period of time in most parts of Haryana. These forests provided refuge to monkeys. The second reason is the increasing population of the simians, and the behaviour of humans towards monkeys is also one of the reasons. Every Tuesday and Saturday, people line up on the roads to feed monkeys, offering them bananas, bread, channa etc. As a result, there is a change in the food habits of the animal. Instead of searching for their natural food, monkeys enter human settlements in search of easily available food,” explains ex-IFS officer P P Bhojvaid, also a former principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF), Haryana.
Seeds, flowers, nuts, eggs of birds and meat are the traditional food of monkeys, who are omnivores. In Himachal, the Rhesus Macaque had been declared ‘vermin’ thrice between 2016 and 2019 for the period of crop cultivation and plantation.
In Haryana, no animal has ever been declared as ‘vermin’. The damage caused by monkeys do not fall within the wildlife compensation policies of Haryana. According to a senior IFS officer of Haryana, Himachal’s decision to declare monkeys as ‘vermin’ has proven a futile step to tackle human-animal conflict in the state.
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