Send your monkeys, take our elephants: Nagaland’s offer puts Himachal in fix
Himachal Pradesh’s proposal to relocate thousands of simians to three Northeastern states for mitigating its worsening monkey menace has hit an elephantine obstacle with Nagaland offering pachyderms in exchange The wildlife wing of Himachal had last month sought the help of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland to ease the problem the 2.07 lakh monkeys pose to its residents and farmlands. Principal secretary Tarun Kapoor even held meetings with his counterparts recently.
Officials say Arunachal, Manipur and Nagaland initially responded to the request positively, raising hopes in Himachal that at least 30,000 monkeys will find new homes after relocation. But the hopes have somewhat given way to despair following Nagaland’s request that Himachal should take in some of its own elephants as the giant mammals are proving to be a nuisance to farmers.
“Nagaland has requested us to explore possibilities to lodge elephants” principal chief conservator of forest and chief wildlife warden SS Negi told HT on Friday. “I wrote to them (Himachal) offering to send wild elephants from Nagaland to their state,” SP Tripathi, chief wildlife warden of Nagaland, said.There are about 150 elephants in Wokha district of Nagaland which are causing havoc to both life and property.
Nagaland’s suggestion has caught Himachal in a bind. The hilly state is not known to be a habitat of elephants. Himachal has for the last few years been struggling to come up with an effective strategy to tackle the monkey menace in the state. With the number of monkeys multiplying rapidly, farmers in some 2,300 villages have to be on guard constantly to protect their crop. In many areas, farmers, fed up of the monkeys, are known to have entirely given up on traditional agriculture.
Horticultural crops worth Rs 150 crores are reportedly destroyed annually in Himachal by monkeys and birds. Making matters worse, the simians are turning aggressive by the day. More than 670 people across the state have been attacked by them in the past three years, prompting the government to pay the victims a total compensation of Rs 28 lakhs. Though the animal was declared vermin by the central government in March for six months, residents of Shimla, the state capital, did not kill even one monkey during the period reportedly because of religious sentiments. It has prompted the state government to double the cash reward for killing a monkey to Rs 1,000.