Maize, onion and groundnut have become the regular food for the monkeys
TIRUCHI: Farmers in villages around P.K. Agaram near Tiruchi are at their wits’ end as monkeys are causing havoc on their fields. They spare none of the crop and feed on maize, onion and groundnut.
The problem has turned acute over the past few months in P.K. Agaram, Neikulam, Mangudi, Nedungur, M.R. Palayam, Sanamangalam and neighbouring hamlets. Farmers estimate that crop in about 300 acres in villages situated close to forest lands have come under attack.
The monkeys, numbering 50 to 100 at times, descend on the fields. “They are ruining our crop and we are sustaining heavy losses,” said Pichai Pillai, a farmer of P.K. Agaram. “Though we keep a vigil through the day, we are not able to keep them away. The monkeys can not be scared away easily. Some are quite ferocious and attack women and children,” rues another farmer Srinivasan. In search of food, they rummage through the huts too. In some of these villages, peacocks too are damaging the crop.
Students of St. Erica Boarding School are also facing trouble from the monkeys. “The animals walk away with children’s belongings such as clothes and bed-sheets,” Fr. S. Dhanaprakasam, school correspondent, says.
Farmers feel that felling of trees along the Tiruchi-Chennai Highway to make way for four-laning work could be the reason for monkey’s moving into the villages. But officials contend that there has been an increase in the population of monkeys in the district.
The Forest Department’s efforts at trapping the animals in other parts of the district have been too limited an exercise. The trapped monkeys are let out in isolated places only to aggravate the problem locally.
The State Secretary of the Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam, R. Raja Chidambaram, suggests that the Forest Department could develop an exclusive habitat for the monkeys and peacocks.
Collector Ashish Vachhani, when contacted, said he had instructed the District Forest Officer to initiate steps to re-locate the monkeys immediately. “The DFO has told me that there are provisions for compensating the farmers if there is visible crop damage,” Mr.Vachhani said.