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Govt steps in to check monkey population

Primate Centre in California and WII say sterilisation the answer

Tubectomy,vasectomy and oral contraceptives are the answers to the monkey population leading to human-animal conflict in urban settings in India,the National Primate Centre,California and the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have concluded.

Encouraged by this,and the success of the monkey sterilisation programme in Himachal Pradesh,the government has decided to scale up measures to check monkey population in urban areas.

Uttarakhand — another state facing the simian problem— is soon expected to begin sterilisation of monkeys as a pilot project,officials confirmed.The Rhesus Macaque or the common Indian monkey has stepped out in huge numbers from the wilderness to urban settings,and the human-monkey conflict has turned intense in several parts of the country.

With state after state complaining about monkeys getting aggressive,the Central Zoo Authority stepped into the picture earlier this year inking an MoU with the California centre,an expert on simian behaviour,to find ways to address the problem.

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The California Centre,it is learnt,advised oral contraceptives,fed through food,as one of the most effective ways to control monkey population. They have monitored the use of oral contraceptives in monkeys in a few other countries.

“It has been agreed that the pilot project will start from Uttarakhand and depending on its success we will scale it up in other states battling monkey menace. There will be a combination of approaches though the focus will be on controlling breeding of monkeys. While monkeys that can be captured are proposed to be sterilized,oral contraceptives mixed in food are being considered for roaming troops of monkeys,” Member Secretary,Central Zoo Authority,B S Bonal told The Indian Express.

WII is keenly examining feasibility of delivering oral contraceptives to monkeys and tracking them for booster doses. “The California centre’s recommendation to use oral contraceptives is interesting but we have sought more clarity on operational issues,how it can be effectively used in a non-zoo like setting for monkeys roaming in groups in cities.

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Sterilisation clearly is quite effective as seen in Himachal Pradesh where the Forest Department is strongly relying on vasectomy and tubectomy of captured monkeys. WII is closely studying that model as well and will soon develop Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) for such sterilization keeping animal welfare in mind. Taking it further,the California Primate Centre will also be sending a team to assess if there are any behavioral or sociological changes in sterilized monkeys,” P C Tyagi,senior scientist at WII Dehradun coordinating the project told The Indian Express.

It may not show immediate results but population control is clearly emerging as key to solving the human-animal conflict. Average life of monkeys range from 10-15 years,and a female will deliver 8-10 offspring depending on several factors. “Sterilisation will be aimed only at monkeys causing trouble — in areas of human habitation and not at those in the wilderness as the latter in fact stay quite peacefully. So once a substantial number of monkeys have been sterilized,over the next few years at least there will be no increment in their population in human habitations,” Tyagi adds.

Himachal Pradesh,which has four state-of-the-art sterilization centres,claims to have sterilized nearly 70,000 monkeys and is beginning to see a visible impact. The state forest department is working on a plan to create massive forested sections where fruit bearing trees are interspersed with commercially grown trees so that monkeys are able to find food within these areas instead of venturing into human settlements. No one can put a number to the monkey population in the country. Himachal Pradesh is conducting a survey to assess the monkey population in the state.

First published on: 18-11-2013 at 12:58:51 am
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