The Centre has once again declared rhesus macaque monkeys as ‘vermin’ in ten districts of Himachal Pradesh, thus allowing the state forest department to cull them for preventing crop loss, conflict with humans, and property loss. The fresh notification, brought out by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), will be valid for an year and will be applicable only in non-forest areas.MoEF&CC had issued a similar notification in May 2016 that expired after one year. Himachal Pradesh forest department, though, did not cull a single monkey between 2016 and 2017, its senior officials told DNA. In Bihar and Uttarakhand, too, they had issued similar notifications, declaring nilgai and wild boars as vermins in the respective states.After the 2016 notification became void, Virbhadra Singh-led government sent a fresh proposal to the environment ministry seeking to declare monkeys as vermin again. The proposal was accepted after due appraisal, a ministry official said. The issue of crop losses caused by monkeys was also poll issue in the recent assembly elections. In their electoral campaigns both the Congress and the BJP had promised farmers of appropriate action.”We have issued a fresh notification, it is not an extension of the old one. Apart from Himachal Pradesh, Bihar had also sought renewal of the notification to declare Nilgai as vermin but their proposal has not been accepted. They are yet to provide impact studies. Uttarakhand has not sought any order to declare wild boars as vermin again,” said a senior ministry official on the condition of anonymity.When asked as to why the state government sought a fresh notification when no monkey was culled, GS Goraya, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Head of Forest Force, Himachal Pradesh, said, “Though we did not cull any monkey, we reached out to farmers to create awareness and have succeeded to an extent in curbing the solid waste issue. Open dumping of food waste is the main attraction for monkeys.” He added, “Culling is also difficult as religious sentiments are attached with monkeys. Unless any Panchayat passed a resolution to cull monkeys, we do not want to cull them.”According to Goraya, of the total population of 2.5 lakh around 1.26 lakh monkeys have been sterilized since 2006, of which 50 per cent are females.Animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi who had moved Supreme Court against the earlier orders of Centre, said, “Conflict with wild animals is a direct result of mismanagement of forests. The forest department has waste tens of crores of public funds on counterproductive sterilization and now they they want to kill the same sterilized monkeys.”ELSEWHEREIn Bihar and Uttarakhand, too, MoEF&CC had issued similar notifications, declaring nilgai and wild boars as vermin in the respective states.
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