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Delhi drops surgical sterilisation plan to control monkey population after 3 years

Delhi drops surgical sterilisation plan to control monkey population after 3 years
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New Delhi: Three years after it was initiated, the Delhi Forest and Wildlife Department has dropped the plan to control the surging monkey population in the capital through laparoscopic sterilisation, according to officials. The plan to use an immunocontraceptive vaccine, which can make monkeys sterile, will remain off the table till there is enough concrete evidence on its efficacy and long-term effects, they said.

However, the department is preparing a proposal to conduct a monkey census with the help of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and train monkey catchers, employed by civic bodies, at the Dehradun facility.

The decisions were taken last week at a meeting of the Enforcement Committee set up by the Delhi High Court to deal with the monkey menace in the national capital. Experts from WII also attended it.

"There was no discussion on surgical sterilisation to control the monkey population. That plan has been dropped. Immunocontraceptive vaccine is also off the table for now. We don't know what effect it may have on the animal population. There is no literature about its large-scale effect or a proven record of success, an official told.

Animal rights activists have repeatedly opposed surgical sterilisation of monkeys in Delhi, citing failed attempts in Himachal Pradesh and Agra.

Gauri Mulekhi from People for Animals (PFA), a non-government organisation advocating for animal rights in India, said the surgical sterilisation project failed in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

"They spent crores on surgical sterilisation of around two lakh monkeys in Himachal Pradesh and ended up making them extremely aggressive. Then they declared them vermin and killed them. The same thing happened when the Agra Development Authority tried sterilising monkeys.

"We don't have to aggravate a problem by mindlessly putting some unscientific method in place. It's nice that the forest department is now looking for scientific solutions," she said

The officials talked to acknowledged that surgical sterilisation is not a successful way to deal with the monkey menace.

"Sterilisation may not yield the desired results as an alpha male captured will be quickly replaced by another male. Monkeys will become aggressive, which will increase cases of man-animal conflict. It is not a proven successful method," an official said.

The department is now focusing on preventing people from feeding monkeys, better animal management and upgrading the skills of the catchers.

"It has been decided to send the monkey catchers employed by civic bodies for training at the Wildlife Institute of India. We are going to approach the WII and ask them to send us estimates. Thereafter, a proposal for funds will be sent to the central government," a senior official said.

The focus of the training will be on "ethical ways to catch monkeys and how to capture them in troops", a member of the committee said, adding that this is the first time it is being conducted.

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