Marauding monkeys are having a field day in Himachal Pradesh.
In the past one year alone, the simians have caused a loss of more than Rs 200 crore to the state's farmers by destroying their crops.
According to the agriculture department, the monkeys ravaged agriculture crops worth Rs 185 crore and horticulture crops worth Rs 38 crore in various districts of the state last year.
“A fresh survey to determine the headcount of monkeys has been conducted to chalk out a strategy to tackle them,” additional chief secretary, forest and horticulture, Tarun Shridhar said.
In 2004, the population of monkeys in the state was 3.17 lakh, but the number dropped to 2.26 lakh in 2012. There were 40,000 in Shimla district alone.
At present, agriculture crops are cultivated in 9 lakh hectares, while fruits are grown in 2.5 lakh hectares across the state.
Maize, wheat, rice, potatoes and seasonal vegetables are the main crops, while fruits grown in Himachal are apple, mango, litchi, cherry, plum, apricot, pear, kinnow and lemon.
A concern for successive state governments, the monkey problem in Himachal Pradesh is spread across 2,300 villages. From setting up primate parks to sterilising the monkeys, different strategies tried by the governments have failed to achieve much.
Wild boars, blue bulls, hares and porcupines add to the problem.
In view of the rising wild animal problem, the state government has set up a state-level committee to find a solution. Formed at the recently concluded Vidhan Sabha session, the committee is headed by the chief minister and has the leader of opposition besides experts as its members.
THREAT TO HUMANS
The monkeys not only eat into the profits of farmers by destroying their crops, they are also a threat to humans. The man-monkey conflict is common in both rural and urban areas.
In the past decade, monkeys have attacked 2,050 people, who have been given Rs 96 lakh in damages by the wildlife wing of the forest department.
The government has so far sterilised 97,000 monkeys by spending Rs 19.4 crore, with the cost of sterilisation of a single monkey being Rs 2,000.
Farmer bodies have been demanding that the government declare monkeys pests and allow their culling to control their population.
“The government has been boasting of sterilising monkeys but the problem persists. The only solution is allowing their export,” says Satyawan Pundir, a member of non-governmental organisation Kheti Bachao Samiti.
OUT OF CONTROL
Monkey population: 2.26 lakh
Monkey attacks on humans in decade: 2,050
Relief disbursed for attacks: Rs 96 lakh
Monkeys sterilised: 97,000
Spent on sterilisation: Rs 19.4 crore
Monkey hotspots: 1,141
LOSS TO CROPS IN YEAR
Agriculture: Rs 185 crore
Horticulture: Rs 38 crore
Area under agriculture: 9 lakh hectares
Area under horticulture: 2.5 lakh hectares