"Operation Monkey" Aims to Kill Marauding Primates

Photo: jinterwas / CC

They're a roving band of macaques who've made a habit of treating crops in northern India as their own private buffet, making more than a few enemies in the process. Now, a militia of fed-up farmers has been formed to put an end to primates' marauding ways, in an effort they've dubbed "Operation Monkey" -- but don't let the name fool you, it won't involve the type of hi-jinks the name might conjure. Rather, its an operation the government just approved wherein farmers are granted permission to shoot the hungry monkeys, virtually on-sight.If "Operation Monkey" sounds like a desperate plan fueled by frustration on the part of farmers, that's because the marauding animals are no minor pests. Each year in India's northern state of Himachal Pradesh, nearly $66.5 million in revenue is lost due to crop damage caused by wildlife like boars, blue bulls, hares -- and especially monkeys -- looking for an easy meal.

But after the local government failed to quell the problem, the farmers decided to form an outfit, known as KBSS, to take matters into their own hands. They are currently organizing a mass-killing of monkeys to take place from December 10 to 23, hoping the operation will improve their bottom line.

"More than 50 percent of damage is caused by monkeys alone," said Kuldeep Singh Tanwar, a representative from KBSS.

And, according to a report from The Bangalore Mirror, the government has decided to back the plan. "Operation Monkey" is a go.

Fortunately, it won't be the free-for-all some farmers may have preferred. State law requires farmers obtain permits to shoot the animals eating their crops -- but KBSS has urged 10,000 of its members to make sure they get them for the big hunt. Still, government officials are doing their best to keep the farmers happy while avoiding the appearance of a full scale monkey cull under their watch by not issuing permits to those not previously authorized to use a weapon.

"The department is giving permits to those farmers who have a gun license. There would be selective killing and no mass culling at all," insisted A.K. Gulati, the state's Chief Wildlife Warden.

So far, several animal-rights groups have stepped up to advocate on behalf of the monkeys.

Poorva Joshipura of PETA India argues that the animals have been left with little choice but to share their habitat with humans, telling Sify:

Human encroachment has resulted in animals being left without homes and no choice but to wander into cities and farms. Ecological harmony can't be restored through the barrel of a gun.

Ironically, the very monkeys which have stirred up so many violent desires among residence are widely celebrated for their significance in the Hindu religion. In fact, the state of Himachal Pradesh is home to a number of temples which welcome the primates as decedents of the 'mighty monkey deity' Lord Hanuman.

While the farmers' grievances are certainly justified, the solution they've settle upon will undoubtedly seem extreme to some folks not immediately impacted by the problem. In the end, however, "Operation Monkey" may be just among the first human-animal conflicts that arise in a world where the laws of nature and economics collide. But with such battles, does anyone really win?

More on Primates
Will Human Beings Save Their Primate Cousins?
Fairness & Equity Concepts Have Deep Primate Roots
Monkeys Catapult Themselves Out of Primate Research Institute

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