Monkey Declared Vermin in Himachal Pradesh - We need to save them by alternatives.

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What does the designation of Vermin mean?

Vermin refers to pests or nuisance animals which spread diseases or destroy crops or livestock. In India Section 62 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 empowers the states to send a list of wild animals to the Center requesting it to declare them vermin for selective slaughter.

The government of Himachal Pradesh has made an announcement regarding the announcement of  Monkey as Vermin for the period of one year in 11 districts of the state. Monkeys were declared as vermin in 38 tehsils and sub-tehsils of 10 districts in Himachal Pradesh. 

These decisions raise questions about whether it is right to kill wildlife that damage crops. More pertinent is whether the problem has been framed and assessed correctly, and culling the appropriate solution in the first place.

Why culling is not a good idea?

Removal through capture or killing may not prevent recurrence of conflicts and may even exacerbate them. Himachal Pradesh, for instance, killed hundreds of rhesus macaques in 2007 with conflicts recurring within two years, sterilised over 96,000 macaques since 2007 while conflicts continued to increase.

When animals are hunted, some will be shot several times causing tremendous pain, but many others escape with one gunshot or flesh wound, and die later slowly and in unimaginable agony from blood loss, gangrene, starvation or dehydration. When mother animals are killed, orphaned babies are left behind to starve.

Provisions to allow wild animals to be killed can also be easily misused and contribute to the illegal wildlife trade. There is already a huge black market for nilgai body parts such as skin, teeth, nails and meat in Uttar Pradesh and wild boar are often used for meat.
In parts of India, wildlife species such as wild pig, elephants, macaques, and nilgai occasionally damage crops or property. However, no reliable estimates of economic loss nationwide are available.

Following list of reasons that scientists’ show us why the animal isn’t the problem:

Habitat loss: Deforestation and lowered green cover in cities has been driving animals into crop fields and human dwellings in search of food.

Fall in predator population: Fall in population of predators such as tigers and leopards leads to a consequential rise in population of herbivores such as nilgai and deer.

Drought: If natural calamities such as drought affect human beings, so is the case with animals in the forest. Drought dries up availability of food for foraging driving wild animals into nearby crop fields and human dwellings in search of food.

Humans feeding animals: this is one of the major problems these days. Tourists often offer foods to animals roadside. This habit makes them chase tourists expecting the same from all tourists.


What are the alternatives available?

Crop damage by wildlife may occur when animals enter crop fields because of habitat alteration and fragmentation, because crops are edible, or because the fields lie along movement routes to forest patches or water sources. For this, site-specific scientific information is needed which helps design targeted mitigation with participation of affected people. This includes supporting local communities to install — and, more important, maintain on a sustained basis — bio-fencing and power fencing around vulnerable areas.

Crop insurance for wildlife damage, which the Environment Ministry recently recommended can be included in the National Crop/Agricultural Insurance Programm. An insurance approach recognizes wildlife as a part of the shared countryside and as a risk to be offset rather than viewing wildlife as antagonists belonging to the State that one wishes away.

Solutions such as adequate fencing, noisemakers, and repelling animals naturally from farms through the use of chili plants or other such means can be tried. In Africa, for example, the planting of chili plants around crops was found to be successful in addressing conflict with elephants.