Dr. Banarsi Lal & Dr. Hafiz Ahmed
Human-animal conflicts are increasing day-by-day and farmers of hilly areas of J&K are greatly affected by the monkey menace. The farmers of hilly areas of J&K are having small size of land holding J&K and have very limited resources for agriculture. They live in and around traditional forest areas. They face various problems in agriculture such as lack of irrigation sources, dry spells, invasion of exotic weeds, lack of transportation facilities etc. From the last one decade monkey menace is affecting their livelihood as their most of the crops are damaged by the monkeys. Their returns from agriculture are diminishing because of monkey menace. Many farmers are leaving agriculture because of monkey menace and they are migrating towards urban areas to earn their livelihood. Many families are depending on the state-subsidised food rations. Like Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand, J&K is badly affected by the monkey menace. Substantial damage to the crops is done by the monkeys especially in Jammu region of J&K. It is estimated that more than Rs.3000 crores loss is done by the monkey menace in J&K. J&K also loses more than Rs.30 crores annually because of monkey menace. Many villages in Udhampur, Reasi, Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Ramban, Rajouri and Poonch districts are severely affected by the monkey menace causing huge losses to the farmers. Besides damaging crops, they attack human beings and this result in huge expenditure on vaccines for the victims. The Indians have many religious and traditional beliefs about monkeys and their killing is not desired, but frequent conflicts have affected the traditional bond between man and monkey. Although various efforts are made to manage the monkey menace but all these methods are not sufficient. There is dire need to develop efficient management and conservation strategies to resolve the man-monkey conflicts. Sterilisation programmes launched in Himachal Pradesh showed some results but didn’t bring the desired results. Oral contraceptives for monkeys are costly and difficult to purchase by the farmers. Lastly the traditional methods like drum beating, firecrackers, string through stones (gulail) etc. are applied by the farmers to minimize the effect of monkey menace.
Man himself is responsible for the monkey menace up to some extent. The deforestation has led to destruction of natural habitat and this caused monkeys to move towards roads, villages and cities. Experts say the reason the population of monkeys has multiplied after their natural habitat was destroyed is because of their ability to adapt to new habitats. Man himself provided monkeys easy access to food. Many people throw edible things towards the monkeys whenever they travel on the roads and this encourages their movements towards roads, villages and cities. As a result, the time they spent in the wild finding food is now being spent in procreation. There population is increasing at an alarming rate and this is inversely effecting the crops production. Many times they snatch edible things and other commodities from the human beings. They have become more aggressive and man-monkey conflict is increasing day-by-days. It has been observed that more than 1,000 cases of monkey bites are reported every day in the Indian cities. They destroy human property and disturb people lives. The cases of monkey-menace are rising in Jammu region. Many devotees are being attacked by the monkeys at Vaishno Devi Shrine, Katra and many times their money and other important commodities are snached by the monkeys. Sometimes, the residents are forced to stay indoors because of the monkeys.
From the last few years incidents of people suffering injuries after being attacked and chased by monkeys have become a routine feature. Due to religious sentiments, people feed monkeys which attract them towards residential areas. Monkey feeding should be avoided. Fields can be guarded manually by the farmers. A devise has been developed by the scientists which produces a high frequency sound like baboon bark and keeps off the monkeys. When played manually near the monkey herd, all monkeys got excited and nervous and start running away from it. Perceiving the threat of baboon, they also displayed warning sounds to their fellow monkeys. Proper sterilisation of monkeys can also stable their population. The sterilization in male monkeys is done through thermocautericcoagulative vasectomy and in females through endoscopic thermocauterytubectomy.
Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Reasi has made strenous efforts to minimize the effect of monkey menace. KVK, Reasi has laid demonstrations on lemon grass in Painthal belt of Reasi district with the co-ordination of Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants(CIMAP) and Indian Institute of Integrative Medicines(IIIM)-Jammu. It is worthwhile to mention here that lemongrass is not damaged by the monkeys and other animals and farmers can fetch more money by growing it. Crop diversification can help to reduce the effect of monkey menace and some farmers are changing their cropping pattern to reduce the effect of monkey menace. The crops like turmeric, ginger, marigold, aloe vera, palma rosa etc. are not affected by the monkeys and need to be promoted in Jammu region as the region has immense potential of these crops. Moreover farmers can go for commercial mushroom cultivation, beekeeping, poultry farming and dairy farming to enhance their income. Fruit loving trees which are preferred by the monkeys need to be planted along with periphery of forest and protected areas boundaries to augment the food availability for them so that they remain restricted in the forest areas only and do not come out in the villages to damage the agricultural crops. Ultrasonic guns that can scare monkeys.
Electric fencing is absolutely safe and it does not kill the monkeys but scare them. It can be utilized by the farmers to protect their crops from monkeys. The solar powered fence electrifies the fence with pulsating current and these pulses are felt by the monkeys when they touch an electrified fence. Unlike a conventional fence, an electric fence is a psychological barrier. Any periphery can be solar fenced, though the cost differs with respect to the area to be fenced. The solar power fencing technology also helps to reduce the crops damage by the monkey menace. The fence is like barbed wire fencing with multiple strands of plain wires and metal/cement/wooden posts to hold the strands in position. The wires carry the current. The solar power fence gives a sharp, short but a non-lethal shock to the monkeys and creates psychological fear to the monkeys. The alarm incorporated in the system gets activated and alert the inmates of the protected area. These are tailor made fences and can be designed according to customer needs and site condition. The electric shock is completely safe and non-lethal for human and animals. The monkeys touching the fence keep away from the fence because of fear. As current is pulsating (not live) and passing at every 1 to 1.2 second and only for a milli-second (1000th of second) of time, the monkey gets enough time to get away from the fence. The pulsating current will not grab the monkey. Some sonic/ultrasonic devices also repel the monkeys. Ultrasonic wave causes great pain and discomfort to monkeys but does no harm to human beings.
(The writers are Scientist and Head of KVK, Reasi and Professor & Head, Division of Entomology, SKUAST-J).
Management of monkey menace in Jammu region
Dr. Banarsi Lal & Dr. Hafiz Ahmed