Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Shimla monkeys to be sterilized

Tired by the tantrums of rogue monkeys at this popular hill resort, authorities are now hitting back - by sterilizing them.

A major sterilization drive is to start in May. The wildlife department has received the first installment of Rs.2.5 million of the Rs.8.3 million allotted for the statewide operation.

This will be the first time sterilization of monkeys will take place in such a large scale, wildlife officials said here.

There are around 350,000 monkeys in Himachal Pradesh. This includes 2,200 in Shimla alone, even after about 1,900 of them were shifted to other parts of the state from this resort town last year.

Troupes of monkeys roam around Shimla, once the summer capital of the British raj, often launching attacks on tourists and locals carrying edibles. At Jakhu, the highest point in Shimla where a temple of Hindu monkey god Hanuman is located, monkeys often snatch worshippers of their 'prasad' (holy offerings).

In the first phase, the sterilization will take place in Shimla and then spread to other heavily monkey-infested regions, including the busy Kalka-Shimla highway.

An official said a mobile van would go around Shimla in search of dominant male monkeys to sterilize them on the spot - inside the vehicle.

'One of the two sterilization machines ordered by the wildlife department has arrived,' said K.K. Gupta, a wildlife department official. 'sterilization could be the best way to control the growing numbers of monkeys.'

Some years ago the Himachal Pradesh High Court, in response to public interest litigation, rapped the government for not doing enough to contain the monkey menace.

This led civic officials to translocate around 3,400 monkeys from Shimla, the Kalka-Shimla highway and Rampur Bushahr town.

Barely had the residents and tourists heaved a sigh of relief when anguished farmers raised an outcry saying the urban monkeys, shifted to the countryside, were damaging their crops.

And animal rights activists complained that the monkeys were mindlessly shifted to places that were often not suitable as their habitat. Besides, they expressed fears that the urban simians could spread their diseases to the wild monkeys living in the forests.

Consequently, the government decided to limit their numbers by sterilizing them and has earmarked Rs.8.3 million for this unique step.

Story here.

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