Himachal farmers kill monkeys to save crop

Sunday, December 12, 2010

SHIMLA - Ignoring criticism by animal lovers, farmers in Himachal Pradesh have killed over 50 monkeys in the past two days to save their crops, a member of a peasants’ group said Sunday.

The Kheti Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (KBSS), a farmers’ outfit that took the initiative to motivate farmers take up guns against wild animals, said that “Operation Monkey” would continue despite criticism from animal protection groups.

“Since the start of drive (Dec 10) against the menace of wild animals, especially the monkeys, we have reports that the farmers across the state have shot dead more than 50 monkeys,” KBSS state convenor Kuldeep Singh Tanwar told IANS.

He said the monkeys were mainly killed in Shimla, Sirmaur and Hamirpur districts.

Contrary to Tanwar’s claims, state Chief Wildlife Warden A.K. Gulati said: “We have reports that only one or two monkeys have been shot dead in the past few days.”

“It’s a routine killing as the government authorised the farmers to selectively kill monkeys, wild boars and blue bulls in case they are destroying their crops,” he said.

He said any farmer in the state could get the permission from the wildlife department to kill animals threatening the crop.

He said the farmers under the banner of KBSS have procured about 300 permits to kill animals.

“Permission has only been given to shoot animals in fields. Our range officers are monitoring the killings. There would be selective killing. The aim is to shoo away the animals from fields,” Gulati added.

KBSS state secretary J.N. Sharma said the drive against the wild animal menace would continue till Dec 23.

On criticism by the animal protection groups for the unscientific killing of the animals, he retorted: “Ask these animal protection groups where were they when these animals were destroying our crops.”

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal informed the state assembly last week that the monkey menace had reached alarming proportions and that the government had authorised the chief wildlife warden to allow the hunting of simians along with wild boars and blue bulls.

According to the wildlife wing’s estimates, over 900,000 farmers mainly in Shimla, Solan, Sirmaur, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Una, Mandi and Kangra districts were affected by wild animals.

Monkeys, numbering over 300,000, mainly target cereal and fruit crops, causing extensive damage.

R.S. Negi, chairman of animal protection group Nature Watch India, said: “There is neither any record of the animals being killed by the permit holders nor their carcasses being deposited with the forest officials.”

“The females and their offspring are all being randomly chased and killed deep inside the forests. In some cases the injured animals are left to die a torturous death. Such inhuman acts should be stopped,” said Negi.

Agriculture is the main occupation of the people in the state, providing direct employment to 69 percent of its workforce.

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