Updated: August 17, 2020 12:48:46 pm
Funds of over Rs 5 crore were sanctioned by the Environment Ministry in March for a project to control increasing conflict between monkeys and humans in Delhi, but the programme did not start due to the coronavirus lockdown.
The Delhi forest department has now asked the Ministry to revalidate the sanctioned amount for the current financial year so that the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) can begin the project, spread over a 5-year period and focused on the Rhesus Macaque species.
Chief Wildlife Warden Prabhat Tyagi told The Indian Express, “We are expecting the Ministry to approve (the revalidation) soon… The Institute would require a couple of months to set up in Delhi before the project begins.”
The problem of “increasing monkey menace” in Delhi, as mentioned in the subject of a meeting held by the Inspector General of Forests (Wildlife) on June 24, has grown over the past several years.
In 2018, the city recorded around 950 cases of monkey bites, with even MPs and bureaucrats living in New Delhi Municipal Council area facing increasing disturbance from the simians, officials said.
Catching and releasing monkeys in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, which is the approach taken so far, does not help solve the issue, and a scientific method is needed, officials added.
“Foraging for food in garbage dumps, raiding agricultural crops, food provisioning and other factors have allowed macaques in human-dominated landscapes to thrive,” states a project proposal prepared by the WII for Delhi.
The institute has been roped in for the project following unsuccessful attempts by the Delhi forest department to engage a vendor for sterilisation by floating three tenders between 2018 and 2019, which no one took up, officials said.
As per the proposal, the 5-year programme would involve estimating the population of monkeys, understanding their behaviour and movement patterns by fitting them with radio-collars, identifying conflict hotspots, using scientific methods for sterilisation, and training forest and municipal staff in conflict management.
The project would collect demographic data, such as group size, gender and ratio of females to males and infants, which would help with an appropriate population management strategy.
“A minimum of 20 troops will be identified and adult females will be fitted with a GPS/GSM transmitter, and the dominant male and two or three adult male and females will be fitted with a VHF transmitter. The troops will be systematically monitored to understand their movement patterns,” the proposal states.
Behavioural monitoring of sample troops would also be done to understand how human resources contribute to their nutritional requirements, and area specific mitigation plans will be prepared.
The WII has listed two methods for mitigation of conflict — immuno-contraception, which involves injecting a contraceptive vaccine, and surgical sterilisation, previously used by Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to control the Rhesus Macaque species.
The decision on which method to use will be taken after an estimation of the population and severity of the problem. Officials said the first year of the project would involve population estimation, the next three years would be focused on sterilisation, followed by training and monitoring in the fifth year.
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