People who feed monkeys do more harm than good, and anyone doing so will be fined, a top state forest official has said.
Feeding monkeys adversely alters their natural behaviour as it makes them reliant on humans for food, said Divijay Singh Khati, chief wildlife warden.
Khati, in a letter to forest officials on January 2, directed them to carryout special drives to stop people from feeding monkeys at temples and other religious places.The drives will be carried out every Tuesday and Saturday, when people feed monkeys because of religious beliefs, Khati told Hindustan Times.
People feed monkeys as they believe primates are the living representatives of Hindu god Hanuman, and Hindu tradition calls for feeding monkeys on Tuesdays and Saturdays. People feed monkeys in the hope being blessed by the monkey god.
“People found feeding monkeys will be fined,” he said. “Our objective is not to hurt anyone’s religious sentiments, but to control the growing menace...”
On several occasions in the past, chief minister Harish Rawat and state forest minister Dinesh Agarwal had raised concern about people feeding monkey, but no punitive action has been taken in this regard.
“This is the first time the department has written to the field officers to stop people from feeding monkeys,” said Jai Raj, principal chief conservator of forest (management and planning).
The monkey-human conflict has increased many-fold across the hill state. Not only in rural areas, but even cities are badly affected by the monkey menace.
Along with religious places like Haridwar and Rishikesh, tourist spots like Nainital, Mussoorie, Ramnagar too are reeling under the menace. Though the letter does not specify the fine amount, a forest official said it will be enough deter people from feeding monkeys.
“Three people were fined Rs 2,500 each in December for feeding monkeys on the Haldwani-Rampur road…Once people are fined for violating the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, I am sure they will become concerned about monkey menace,” said Surendra Mehra, conservator of forest (western circle).
The forest department for the first time conducted a four-day survey between December 10 and 13 last year to study the population of monkeys in forests, cities and areas adjoining forests.
The Wildlife Institute of India which is compiling the findings of the survey is expected to release it in a month’s time, said forest officials.