Vijayawada

The simian that is feared by the Rhesus monkey

It is business as usual for langur traders at Tatakuntla near Vissannapeta in Krishna district. The animal, protected under the Wildlife Act, is sold like a commodity here. Photo: Raju.V  

To owners of orchards they have become invaluable assets. The Grey Langur or the Hanuman Langur protects the crop from the numerical strong Rhesus Macaques.

Though the Grey Langur or the watch dogs of gardens and groves they are not available in pet shops. They are in fact protected by the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and it is a crime to capture, cage or sell them. However the punishment for selling the Grey Langur is not very severe because they are Schedule III animals.

But most horticulturists know the exact place they should go to buy a tame Grey Langur.

Many residents of Tatakuntla village on Vissannapeta-Chatrai Road have in their possession several Grey Langur. The business has been continuing here for decades despite several attempts by the Forest Department to end it.

Some of the Grey Langurs are tied to the posts of thatched shelters erected exclusively for animals. Along side the langurs are goats and other domestic animals. Some other langurs that look more ferocious are kept in really cramped cages. “This is part of the taming process. The langur slowly gets used to humans and stops attacking them. Tame langurs are worth more to the traders,” says former Assistant Conservator of Forests P.Gracious.

The langur seems to be currently the only protection the orchard owner has against the ever growing population of Rhesus monkeys. The understaffed Forest Department has considerably reduced, or, fully stopped monkey menace control programmes. About a decade ago monkey menace was often a topic of hot debate in Zilla Parishad meetings. This was followed by the Forest Department deploying trappers to catch the monkeys from the orchard owners and releasing them in deep forest.

US-based Italian Behaviour Biologists Dario Maestripieri in his book ‘Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World’ says that the Rhesus monkeys are highly intelligent and adaptable. With the disappearance of forests they are learning to live among the humans. Maestripieri says that the monkeys have learnt to eat what the humans eat and even survey a house for goodies. The fear is that it may not be long before they form into gangs and attack Langur.

The export of Rhesus monkeys that were used extensively for animal testing has been banned after animal activists took up the issue. Now their population is growing exponentially.

The Forest Department officials, who have to protect both the species of monkeys according to the statute, have become apathetic to the condition of the animals. Some of the officials are even lobbying to shift the Rhesus Monkey to Schedule IV of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act declaring them vermin that can be hunted.

This however many not go well with the followers of Hindu religion who worship the monkey god Hanuman. The Rhesus Monkeys are revered and fed by devotees at several shrines in the country.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 11:25:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Vijayawada/the-simian-that-is-feared-by-the-rhesus-monkey/article3756990.ece

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