Having been declared as vermin in 2015 for causing extensive damage to crops and attacks on people, less than 100 monkeys have been killed in Himachal owing to religious faith as they are considered as the ‘avatar’ of Lord Hanuman.

This was stated by Forest Minister Govind Singh Thakur during one day workshop on Human-Wildlife Conflict (Monkeys) in Himachal Pradesh for Shimla, Dharamshala Municipal Corporations, all Nagar Panchayats and Nagar Parishads of the state.

“No one wants to kill monkeys as religious faith prevents them from doing so,” Thakur said while addressing the participants here on Tuesday.

State Forest minister said only viable solution to monkey menace was sterilization which should be carried out more effectively.

However, the result of the entire drive would be visible in coming years.

He said as many as 548 panchayats out of the total 3243 panchayats were severely affected by the monkey menace in Himachal Pradesh wherein monkeys cause extensive damage to crops.

Even local population was also affected by the monkeys as many a times, they attack them, especially women and children which had also resulted in the deaths in some cases in the state.

He called for discussions with the representatives and locals of these panchayats to find a way out and mobilize local and youth after giving them training in tackling the menace.

Forest Minister even announced to increase remuneration for catching monkeys from Rs 500 to Rs 1000 in coming days and said this would encourage locals to come forward and contribute towards sterilization drive of the state government.

Govind Singh Thakur further stated that the Forest Department was carrying out compound plantation, increase in green cover and plantation of fruit trees in forests.

“Monkey menace is causing a damage of Rs 184 crore to the agriculture and horticulture sectors in the state,” he added.

Dr Savita, Principal Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) detailed about the efforts on curbing monkey menace and said so far, 1.57 lakh monkeys had been sterilized in Himachal.

“The sterilization drive has prevented 4.90 lakh possible monkey births in the state,” she said, adding the government would again seek continuation of vermin status for the species from Union government in 2010-21 too.

Her view was however, objected to by many Nagar Panchayat, Nagar Paridhad chiefs and Shimla Municipal Corporation Mayor, Kusum Sadret, Councillor Kimi Sood who called for humane approach to tackle the crisis.

“Monkeys shouldn’t be killed and instead, a way out should be found to tackle the crisis,” Sadret said, adding the destruction of forests and forest fires had resulted in monkeys shifting to urban areas.

Sadret and Kimi Sood raised their concern against seeking to declare vermin again in the state and it was humans who had encroached on forests.

However, some Nagar Panchayat and Nagar Paridhad chiefs were supported culling of monkeys and called for declaring the species vermin again in the state.