The Centre has turned down the Himachal Pradesh government’s proposal to declare monkeys as vermin in order to allow their killing to control the monkey menace. However, it has asked for a list of areas where there is heavy concentration of monkeys so that area-specific culling can be permitted.
The issue figured at a meeting of the State Board for Wildlife held in Shimla on Friday. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh admitted that the monkey menace was a big worry but some viable solutions had been found to check their population through effective sterilisation. Already 96,126 monkeys have been sterilised at seven centres set up since 2007 at a cost of Rs 12 crore.
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Himachal has also been approached by half a dozen state governments, the Union Territory of Chandigarh and the government of Sri Lanka to share its expertise and help in carrying out similar programmes, Virbhadra added.
However, in response to the state’s request to declare monkeys as vermin under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) refused to grant permission on the ground that it could be misused or create complications if similar demands are made by other states too.
“Yet, the wildlife department in the MoEF has asked us to submit a list of hotspots where the concentration of monkeys is high. The GoI can grant area-specific permission. I have a list of seven to eight such spots. It will soon be sent to the Centre,” J S Walia, the state’s chief wildlife warden, said on Saturday.
The government has decided to set up ‘Van Vatikas’ for monkeys, which will provide a natural habitat and fruit trees for food requirements. A fresh census of the state’s monkey population will also be undertaken with the help of the central zoo authority next month.