Karnataka

Monkey park: Environmentalists question feasibility of proposal

Monkeys in Devarayanadurga forest drinking water from mini open-tanks.

Monkeys in Devarayanadurga forest drinking water from mini open-tanks.  

They fear that this may trigger an outbreak of infections like Kyasanur Forest Disease and also upset the natural food chain

Environmentalists are sceptical of the State government’s proposal to establish a ‘monkey park’ in Malnad region to contain the problem of crop-raiding primates. They fear that this may trigger infections like Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) and also upset the natural food chain.

Shivamogga district has witnessed unabated deforestation in recent times owing to the construction of reservoirs and unauthorised cultivation on forest land. More than 81,000 acres of forest have been encroached upon and converted into cultivable land. The loss of habitat has caused changes in food and behavioural spattern of the monkeys. They raid plantations on the forest fringes and have developed a fondness for arecanut, the main crop here.

They relish the sap from the arecanut flowers and tender nuts that are rich in arecoline, an alkaloid that has a psycho-stimulant quality and gives the nuts a unique taste and aroma. After sipping the juice from the tender nuts they throw them away, causing a heavy loss for the farmers.

In wake of protests staged by affected farmers, a meeting chaired by Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa decided to develop a monkey park on the 100 acre forest land in Hosanagar taluk where the monkeys that raid the plantations would be shifted. However, environmentalists say that this concept is illogical and non-feasible.

Ajay Kumar Sharma, an environmentalist, told The Hindu that the State government took the decision without doing necessary ground work like consulting stakeholders including officials from Forest and Revenue Departments, environmentalists, wildlife experts and farmers. The impact of shifting on the monkeys and the entire eco-sytem, territorial clashes that may emerge between the primates that are original inhabitants of the forest and new entrants, should have been studied before taking the decision, he said.

Monkeys straying near human habitat owing to deforestation is said to be the main reason for the outbreak of KFD, popularly known as monkey fever, that originated from Shivamogga district and has claimed many lives. Mr. Sharma said that a hasty decision on the establishment of a park that is against nature may trigger an outbreak of similar viral infections.

Questioning the feasibility of the establishment of a monkey park and its economic implications, Akhilesh Chipli, another environmentalist, said that it has been proposed to shift the monkeys to uninhabited islands on the backwaters of Linganamakki and Varahi reservoirs. A huge allocation is needed to catch the monkeys, transport and feed them. “As monkeys can swim, they can even easily return to the mainland resulting in the failure of the plan,” he said.

The State government can address the problem by planting fruit-bearing trees in the forests and by enhancing natural green cover, he suggested. Also, the practice of releasing monkeys caught in urban areas to Malnad forests should also be avoided, he said.

Farmers welcome move

The proposal for the monkey park has been welcomed by farmers groups. Ramesh Hegde, president, Shivamogga Zilla Adike Belegarara Sangha, an organisation of arecanut growers, said that common the langur found in the region in large numbers is a protected animal and killing it attracts punishment. “However, the claims for compensation for crop loss caused by it is rejected on the ground that the langur is a semi-domesticated animal. Any decision taken by the government to address the monkey menace is welcomed by the arecanut growers,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 1:06:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/monkey-park-greens-question-feasibility-of-proposal/article29903742.ece

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