Shimla: Your spectacles could be taken away, food packets snatched or you might even be slapped. The monkey menace is again rearing its head in this ever popular hill resort just a few years after the animals were banished to the jungles.
'Around six-seven years ago, the monkeys were trapped and put in forests. But as their population grew, they are back,' chief wildlife warden A.K. Gulati said.
Octogenarian Devki Nandan Kaushik said in a letter this month to Himachal Pradesh High Court Chief Justice Kurian Joseph: 'It has become a headache for residents as the wildlife authorities have failed to check the rising numbers of monkeys.'
Taking cognisance of the issue, a division bench consisting of Justice Joseph and Justice Rajiv Sharma directed the municipal commissioner of Shimla and the divisional forest officer (wildlife) Sep 15 to file affidavits as to what steps they have taken to check the problem.
Said housewife Parul Sood: 'They (the monkeys) are capable of getting into homes, opening refrigerators, stealing food and destroying gardens. They are pests.'
In localities like Jakhu, Tutikandi, Nabha, Phagli, Kaithu, Summer Hill, Tutu, Boileauganj, Chotta Shimla and Sanjauli, the residents have literally converted their houses into jails by erecting iron grills on the doors and windows to check intrusion.
Gulati said the department has carried out various steps to check the population of monkeys and langurs in urban areas across the state.
'The wildlife wing is carrying out community awareness drives and sterilisation programmes to contain the simian population,' he said.
Under the mass sterilisation programme, 6,000 monkeys are to be operated annually for five years consecutively to contain the menace caused by 319,000 monkeys in the state.
Over 35,000 monkeys have been sterilised so far. 'In some pockets, we have observed that the population of monkeys has been stabilised. The positive results will start emerging once 40-50 percent of the total primate population is sterilised,' Gulati said.
Earlier this month, a black-faced langur had created mayhem in Shimla.
The animal slapped passers-by and disappeared into the nearby woods. And in some cases when the people resisted it, the animals bit them.
Divisional Forest Official R.K. Raj said the langur had bitten over a dozen people. Finally, it was shot dead after five days Sep 9.
Last year, a naughty monkey was in the news for taking away spectacles from the office of the Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd, a public sector undertaking in this north Indian resort.
The monkey entered the office and smartly decamped with the spectacles from the office table without showing any interest in other office accessories.
It even pounced on people wearing spectacles.
Instances of monkeys taking away spectacles and virtually blackmailing people into giving them food are not uncommon in the Lord Hanuman temple located in the picturesque Jakhu hills.
Said Sandeep Rattan, a veterinary surgeon with the wildlife wing:
'This is an imitative behaviour and it's normally seen in sub-adult monkeys. They generally get pleasure out of it.'
'If we start offering them some reward (goodies) to get the items back, they start looking for such opportunities. They should be scared, not rewarded.'