Shimla: With the exploding monkey population in Himachal Pradesh posing a major challenge to its human population, it is being now debated whether to allow their select culling or translocation and, if nothing works out, exporting them out of the state.
Even the state high court vented its anguish last week over the lack of action by the state government to contain the monkey menace over the last decade.
"Wake up our honourable courts that have granted stay on their culling and the state government which still continues to ban the export of monkeys, which are on high demand internationally for bio-medical research," Shimla Municipal Corporation Deputy Mayor Takinder Panwar said.
Every month, there are over 400 cases of monkey and langur bites in Shimla town alone, Panwar told IANS.
The latest victim is 86-year-old Rukhmani Kanwar, who was bitten by a black-faced langur in Shimla. Both her legs sustained multiple fractures.
But the demand to kill the animals has led to criticism from animal protection groups.
"We strongly reject and condemn the demands for either culling or their translocation or even allowing their export for medical research," Nature Watch India national convener and animal rights activist Rajeshwar Negi said.
"The problem of monkey menace has been exaggerated in terms of animal numbers and losses in the state. People have only tried to gain politically on the issue," Negi told IANS.
Negi, a former Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer, said the monkeys have lost their habitat because of humans.
He said the state wildlife wing has no authentic record of the monkey population. The only genuine monkey census done so far was in 1964 by Britons Dolhinow and Lindberg, who recorded their population in the state as being between 50,000 and 60,000, Negi said.
Wildlife officials said the monkey census of 2013 in the state showed their population at 236,000, This, according to them, represented a decline from 319,000 in 2004.
Likewise, the population of langurs was estimated at 18,000 in 2013 compared to 56,986 in 2004.
They attributed their decline in population to monkey sterilisation campaigns.
However, thousands of farmers in Shimla, Solan, Sirmaur, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Una, Mandi and Kangra districts claim they have incurred losses mainly due to the marauding monkeys.
The wildlife wing estimates that more than 900,000 farmers are affected by monkeys.
Kuldeep Singh Tanwar of the Kheti Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, an NGO working for the cause of farmers, said lifting the ban on the export of monkeys for bio-medical research is the only alternative to check their rising numbers.
The central government had banned the export of wild animals in 1978.
Coming down heavily on the government, a division bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan last week observed that verbal orders have been passed from time to time but neither the state nor the union government has taken the requisite steps.
A civil writ petition of 2003 is in the docket of the court for the last 11 years and other writ petitions are pending for the last more than four years, the bench said.
"The growth of monkeys is at its peak and the number of stray dogs is also increasing day by day... it is shocking to record that in the last week we have lost the precious life of a young woman," the judges observed Nov 12.
"Keeping in view the orders passed from time to time and the above circumstances, this court has to pass coercive orders to save human lives and property," said the judges, while listing the matter for next hearing Dec 9.
The high court had in January 2011 put on hold the state's decision to allow the farmers to shoot monkeys.