Urban Menace: Make designated monkey zones

There is a need to create spaces conducive to monkey migration from human habitations 

By Iqbal Malik
Published: Saturday 24 June 2023
Photo: iStock


Rhesus monkeys are native to South, Central and Southeast Asia, including India. They inhabit the northern states on the south of the Brahmaputra and have a wide geographical range of distribution, from grasslands to forested areas, plains and mountain ranges.

However, in the recent past, there has been a decline in natural resources, leading to competition between humans and monkeys and decreased tolerance for coexistence.

Humans began to haphazardly trap and provisioning space to monkeys instead of providing them foraging grounds. In return, monkeys raided and destroyed properties.

The Rhesus monkeys’ daily activity changed. There was exponential growth in their population as the male-female ratio got skewed; not only did the number of females increase, they also attained sexual maturity much earlier than usual.

The human-monkey conflict exposed corrupt practices by administrative, forestry and law enforcement agencies, in which natural food for monkeys got replaced with human food and multilayered forests got converted to shallow forests.

Attempts to manage the conflict were half hearted or misdirected. Instead of continuing with short-term, non-scientific and haphazard solutions, there is a need to understand why monkeys prefer certain habitats and acknowledge their stresses and fears.

One solution is to convert all existing green patches to monkey zones, with conditions conducive to their migration from human habitations.

To do this, people must first mark commensal monkey groups located in the northern states as well as the existing green patches. These spaces should be made monkey-friendly by creating waterways, preparing the soil and planting trees and shrubs for shade and fruits.

Further, there is a need for localised, need-based new monkey policies and stricter law enforcement.

Rhesus monkeys should be made a Central rather than a state subject, with the Union government holding discussions with national and international experts for solutions. New laws should halt trapping, feeding and violence towards monkeys, as well as curb their excessive breeding through long-lasting female contraception.

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This article is part of a cover story first published in the 16-30 June, 2023 print edition of Down To Earth

Iqbal Malik is founder and director of Vatavaran, a Delhi-based community non-profit

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

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