A northern Indian state said Thursday it planned to use unemployed youths to sterilize monkeys to try to combat aggressive primates who have been raiding farms. The idea drew immediate condemnation from conservationists, who said the plan was unscientific and would likely worsen the problem.
Indian authorities have struggled in recent years to deal with the tens of thousands of monkeys that live in and around cities. They are drawn to public places such as temples and office buildings, where devout Hindus feed them, believing them to be manifestations of the god Hanuman.
In recent months, the deputy mayor of New Delhi was killed when he fell from his balcony during an attack by wild monkeys, and 25 others were injured when a monkey went on a rampage in the city.
The mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh is infested with rhesus macaque monkeys, who have been driven to farms and cities after losing their natural forest habitat.
Prem Kumar Dhumal, the state's chief minister, said Himachal Pradesh would go on a "war footing" to fight the thousands of monkeys who have been turning farms into wastelands and attacking people, according to a statement from his office.
"Affected districts would be identified and local youth involved in the process, who would be provided training in capturing and sterilization by the experts," the statement quoted Dhumal as saying, adding that they would use "laser sterilization."
The capacity of zoos in the area would be expanded to accommodate captured monkeys, and camps may be set up for them in order to protect crops and other farmland from being encroached upon, the statement said.
Conservationists condemned the proposal to let inexperienced youths sterilize monkeys, saying it was cruel and would not solve the problem.
Sujoy Chaudhuri, an ecologist who co-authored a report by prominent primatologists and conservationists that was submitted recently to the federal and state governments, said the plan would make the monkey problem worse.
"It is a ridiculous idea and what is worse, it will do nothing to contain the problem and probably make it worse," Chaudhuri said. "Can you imagine what having badly sterilized monkeys running around will do to the levels of aggression?"
Belinda Wright, the director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, added: "The government chooses not to act on recommendations from experts and instead comes out with these absurd proposals."