Ever watched that movie “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, where the monkeys take over the planet? Residents of Narasapuram In Telangana may or may not have watched this Hollywood film but their lives now resemble the film’s plot. Over the course of the past 15 years, this village has been taken over by monkeys, over 400-500 of them.
While many abandoned the village owing to the man-animal conflict, some are trying to fight against the monkeys from taking over.
The residents of Narasapuram believe that the monkeys were caught from Hyderabad, Nizamabad and other cities and dumped near the village 15 years ago. “Initially, no one cared about it but then they started multiplying until it became too much,” says Srivarama Krishna the Narsapuram village sarpanch, who won the panchayat election in 2019 on the promise of resolving the man-animal conflict.
“Our lands are fertile and we grow vegetables and fruits, the monkeys took a liking to the fruits the farmers grow. Now they have started destroying the crops,” he adds.
The man-animal conflict
The situation reached a point where the farmers even stopped farming altogether due to heavy crop losses incurred due to the monkeys. Shivarama says that the monkeys also began barging into homes.
“We have to keep the doors and windows bolted, they are smart enough to open the door come inside and steal the cooked food, sometimes even running away with the vessels containing food,” he says, while adding that the women, children and the senior citizens in the village were at the risk of attacks from monkeys. “People started getting attacked even when they used to return home from the shop with groceries, the monkeys would just steal the bags,” Shivarama says.
In the last few years, about 20 families have left the village and moved to Hyderabad owing to the problem. The villagers had sought help from the Telangana Forest Department to help resolve the problem. Residents say that the Forest Department officials caught a few monkeys, but the problem persists.
The forest department had in 2015 planned to set up a monkey rescue programme at a cost of Rs 30 crore. They had planned to send the rescued monkeys to rehabilitation centres across five forest circles in the state including Hyderabad, erstwhile Adilabad, Nizamabad, Khammam and Mahbubnagar. The monkeys were to be sterilised at these centres. However, only one such centre became functional at Nirmal in 2019 and is manned by veterinarians who attend the facility on a part-time basis.
"The state has to spend Rs 2-3 crore for each monkey rehabilitation facility. They were unsure if this would work, so decided to spend on one facility and observe before expanding it across districts," a consultant for the Forest Department told TNM.
The monkey rescuers
With little or no help from the state government, the residents of Narsapuram decided to take matters into their own hands. They hired a father-son duo from West Godavari to rescue monkeys in April 2019.
“They would sit with the monkeys and befriend them, make them comfortable for a week. The duo managed to eventually rescue 100 monkeys,” Shivarama says.
The village residents paid the monkey rescuers Rs 1,500 per monkey and Shivarama alleges that he spent around Rs 1 lakh from his personal funds to finance the project. In May last year, the village residents hired 30 monkey catchers from Andhra Pradesh, who have rescued another 100 of them over the course of one year. Some of the villagers are financing the monkey rescue, Shivarama adds.
The rescued monkeys were taken deep into the Lakshmipuram forests of Khammam district and let off.
Narasapuram village is also the home for the Telangana transport minister Ajay Kumar’s grandmother, says the sarpanch. The minister has also promised a grant of Rs 1 crore fund to tackle the problem, he says.
(With inputs from Nitin.B)