Even as the Maharashtra State Forest department gets ready to bring out a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to deal with man-animal conflict, a Mumbai-based NGO working on urban wildlife issues has already initiated a drive focused on monkeys.
With the country observing Wildlife Week starting Friday, members of the Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW) said they thought it was the best time to raise the issue. Every week, the outfit receives 4-5 complaints, which range from monkeys entering buildings or houses, injuring and biting people, and damaging or stealing eatables.
RAWW founder Pawan Sharma, who was also a part of the team set up to decide on SOP for man-monkey conflict, said, “The SOP was much needed. It will finally give a right direction to tackle the monkey conflict. Till date, monkeys were abruptly captured and released. Also, there was a need to make people aware that they were to be blamed for the conflict, not the other way round.”
Sharma added that their main agenda will be to dissuade people from feeding the monkeys, and spreading awareness about the do’s and don’ts, in case the simians come close to them or enter their house. “We will first visit all the buildings in the close vicinity of the forest areas and those where the monkeys visit on a regular basis. We will give them presentations and put up informative posters,” he said, adding that they will also work closely with the Forest department officials to ensure proper implementation of SOP.
Chinmay Joshi, another RAWW member, said they will also writing to the Forest department to implement a fine for feeding monkeys, and to start regular drives so that defaulters could be booked. “Regular and strict drives will act as a deterrent, as even Forest officials know that people feed everything to monkeys, including human food and wafers, inside SGNP and Yeoor forest,” he added. According to the SOP, the monkey menace was growing in and around the forest regions of Thane, Nashik and Aurangabad, leading to more man-animal conflict situations in these regions.
Meanwhile, a senior Forest department official said there was an urgent need of a sustained awareness drive, on the lines of the one carried out for leopards, so that the so-called monkey menace can be controlled in an effective manner. “This is the first time an SOP has been made. It will play a major role in helping the Forest staff deal with man-animal conflict. It explains the methods that can be used to capture a monkey, if needed, and also sets rules on how the animal is to be rehabilitated and released.”