Uttarakhand monkeys may have TB, could be threat to humans: Experts

  • Nihi Sharma Sahani, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jan 13, 2016 20:49 IST
A senior forest official has said that monkeys in the hill state of Uttarakhand might be ailing with tuberculosis and if the disease remains unchecked they could become a serious threat to humans in the state (HT)

Monkeys in Uttarakhand might be ailing with tuberculosis, claims conservator of forest (CF) Western Circle. With unchecked introduction of the population from neighbouring states like Delhi, UP and Haryana in Uttarakhand, chances of its spread are high, support experts too. Under such circumstances, monkey attacks could lead to serious threats to locals.

According to Surendra Mehra, CF Western Circle which envelopes five forest divisions-Ramnagar, Haldwani, Terai East, Terai West and Terai central, during assessment of primates in December 2015, he observed diseased monkeys. While no scientific test has been conducted to ascertain the disease, he raised concern over their illness.

“The monkeys that we observed during direct count method of survey conducted in December 2015 looked diseased. One could easily make out that they are unhealthy based on their aggression and behavior. As tuberculosis is the most prevalent disease reported in the specie, we fear they might be ailing with it, though we haven’t tested it yet. Primates that are not competitive and have tendency to get feed easily, fall prey to this disease,” Mehra told Hindustan Times.

Read more: Now, people to be fined for feeding monkeys in Uttarakhand

Another officer supported his stance quoting how tuberculosis was reported some years back in Delhi as well. “Captive monkeys tend to catch tuberculosis. It was reported in Delhi too. Monkeys are brought from other states and released here. There’s a possibility that the pathogen is transported from other states through the specie and might be spreading in our state as well,” Tejaswini Patil, divisional forest officer (DFO) Nainital and director Pt. GB Pant High Altitude Zoo, Nainital said.

People feed monkeys with cold drink, potato chips, packaged snack, bread, and even toffees, which according to experts isn’t healthy for their digestive system. Such monkeys even feed on leftovers and garbage because of which become susceptible to the disease. Monkey attacks therefore, would pose threat to victims. However, no such incident has been reported in state so far where monkey attack victim has died, claims forest department.

Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India’s (WII) scientist, PK Mallik however, explains the mechanism behind it. “Captive monkeys, if carry pathogen of tuberculosis, could be a threat. There’s a possibility that the pathogen might adapt to new environment, or may not or even start living in symbiotic association with the host. What’s complex is their screening. There should be clear guidelines whether translocated monkeys are screened for the disease or not. And, how often screening and blood tests of local monkeys are conducted” he said.

Another expert from the institute, Dr SP Goyal, forensic expert informed about the behavioral changes in diseased monkeys. He said, “Diseased monkeys will look vulnerable, aggressive, with injuries, diluted skin color and others such traits. They could be easily identified from the healthy lot.”

According to Digvijay Khati, chief wildlife warden, there are an estimated 5 lakh monkeys in state. Needless to mention, man-monkey conflict is extremely high in state and therefore, the department started sterilization of monkeys in October 2015 that is progressive at Chidiapur rescue centre at Haridwar. Nearly 200 monkeys from haridwar city have been sterilized as per official figures and were released in wild.

Meanwhile, the department has also issued order on January 2 to conduct special drives on Tuesdays and Saturdays that are believed to be the days of Lord Hanuman and penalize persons feeding the species.

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