KERALA

The monkey shepherds of Nelliampathy

The term ‘monkey shepherd’ may not sound absurd here. A female monkey, aged about eight years, and her two children shepherd a flock of 150 goats on a farm at this picturesque hill station in Palakkad.

Named Mani, the monkey has emerged as an added attraction at the tourist spot with waterfalls, plantation walks, trekking and different forms of adventure tourism. Mani and her children keep the flock from going astray in the forests.

“It was Mani who began shepherding the goats five years ago. The little ones were born in the last two years; we are yet to name them. They have been trained by Mani to look after the goats grazing in the nearby grasslands and plantations,” says farm manager P.J. Martin.

According to caretaker Gopalan, the monkeys ride on the goats’ back while the latter go to graze.

“They control the goats by tugging gently at their ears. They will attack anyone who ventures near the goats,” he says.

In the night, they share a closed enclosure with the goats.

Martin had found Mani five years ago – she had bleeding wounds all over her body. He applied medicines to the wounds and left her with the goats. Since then she has been living in their company, even sharing their food.

“The monkeys are very sincere and efficient,” says V. Johnson, a worker with the farm.

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