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Home / Politics / Policy /  Shimla’s monkey menace may end as vermin status clears killing

New Delhi: Monkey menace in the tourist hotspot of Shimla may abate with the central government clearing the way for its large-scale extermination, by declaring it vermin in a notification issued on 14 March.

The Union environment ministry has notified monkeys as “vermin" for the next six months, allowing the state government to take steps for their large-scale extermination.

The Union environment ministry notification, which followed several requests from the Himachal Pradesh authorities, cited rising cases of monkeys destroying property, including crops, and biting people. Such a move will allow state authorities to carry out extermination of monkeys on a large scale without attracting penal provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

This is the third animal that has been declared vermin by the environment ministry. Mint reported in February that the ministry has categorised wild boars vermin in Uttarakhand for a year. In December, nilgai and wild boars were declared vermin in Bihar for a year.

Shimla is visited by lakhs every year and the monkey menace had become a headache for the local authorities. In a 2015 news report by the Indo-Asian News Service, Shimla Municipal Corporation deputy mayor Tikender Panwar said every month, more than 200 monkey bite cases are reported in Shimla alone.

A senior environment ministry official, who did not wish to be identified, said the problem is reported from other parts of Himachal Pradesh as well. Following this notification, there may be similar requests from across the state, he added.

“...the state of Himachal Pradesh has reported harm to life and property including large scale destruction of agriculture due to overpopulation of rhesus macaque monkeys in areas outside forests. The central government has considered it necessary to balance local population of this species to mitigate the damage to human life, crops and other properties of the state for ensuring conservation of wildlife in forests," the notification said. Mint has seen a copy of the notification.

“Therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by section 62 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, the Central government, hereby declare the Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) to be vermin and to be included in Schedule V of the Act, for a period of six months from the date of issue of this notification, in the Shimla Municipal Corporation Area limits, excluding the forest areas," the notification said.

Monkeys are a protected species under Schedule II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. But if any wild animal poses danger to human life or property (including standing crops on any land), or is so disabled or diseased as to be beyond recovery, the law allows for its killing.

Using these provisions, any animal listed in Schedule I-IV can be put in Schedule V for a specific period, declaring it as vermin, allowing its killing. Schedule V includes animals like the common crow, fruit bats, mice and rats.

Experts, however, question the science behind declaring animal vermin.

“This trend of declaring any species vermin is very troubling. Decisions seem to have been taken without sufficient knowledge or understanding the issue. Will it actually reduce conflict, which appears to be the intent? Some studies suggest it won’t. We need holistic solutions. Instead, we have states hiring sharp shooters to kill species listed under the Wildlife Protected Act, which is shocking. Who is going to monitor the situation? How many animals will be killed? There are no answers to all this," said Prerna Bindra, a conservationist and a former member of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife.

“Have we considered that it may well escalate conflict? A lot of our tigers are outside protected areas, and depend on wild boar, nilgai etc. for their prey. Killing the latter as vermin will only mean that tigers, leopards etc. turn to livestock," she added.

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