Saturday, Sep 16, 2023 06:15 [IST]

Last Update: Saturday, Sep 16, 2023 00:43 [IST]

Shared responsibility

The recent announcement by the Forests & Environment Department of the Government of Sikkim to prohibit the feeding of monkeys (Macaque species) is a crucial step towards maintaining the safety and well-being of our communities. It addresses a pressing issue that has, unfortunately, spiralled into a matter of public health and safety – the improper feeding and management of food waste that has led to an unnatural increase in the monkey population.

The decision to enforce this prohibition comes as a response to the alarming escalation of human-monkey conflicts in both urban and rural areas. These conflicts have escalated to a point where they pose a significant threat to public safety. It is imperative that we understand the multifaceted risks and concerns associated with the practice of feeding monkeys.

Monkeys accustomed to being fed by humans lose their natural sense of fear and begin to associate food with people. This conditioning transforms their behaviour, making them increasingly bold and even aggressive. Monkeys, despite their endearing appearance, remain wild animals with unpredictable tendencies. Feeding them not only increases the likelihood of confrontations but also raises the risk of bites and injuries, particularly to women and children. Moreover, the transmission of zoonotic diseases between primates and humans is a genuine concern that we cannot ignore.

When humans provide readily available food, these macaques forgo their natural foraging in forests and instead venture into offices, homes, religious sites, supermarkets, and shops in search of sustenance. Human food products, though calorie-rich and easily digestible, do not align with the macaques' dietary needs. This unbalanced diet can elevate stress levels among the monkeys and lead to increased inter-group aggression. Feeding them disrupts their natural feeding patterns and behavioural rhythms, which can have far-reaching ecological consequences. Feeding monkeys not only disrupts their natural habitat but also creates an unsanitary environment in our neighbourhoods. Leftover food and waste become breeding grounds for pests and vermin. The accumulation of refuse can compromise hygiene standards and expose our communities to health risks.

It is vital to recognize that the Macaque species of monkeys are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The prohibition on feeding them is not just a recommendation but a legally binding directive. Those found violating this regulation, along with improper disposal of food waste, will face a fine of Rs 5000/-. This stringent approach is not just about penalties but is aimed at raising public awareness and serving as a deterrent against these harmful practices.

As responsible citizens, we must acknowledge the importance of coexisting harmoniously with our natural surroundings. By adhering to this prohibition, we contribute to preserving the delicate balance of our environment. It is a shared responsibility to ensure that our actions do not endanger the safety of our communities or disrupt the natural behaviours of our wildlife. Let us heed this call for responsibility and mindfulness, recognizing that our actions have a direct impact on the environment and the safety of our fellow citizens. By refraining from feeding monkeys and properly disposing of food waste, we can create a safer and more harmonious environment for everyone. The decision by the Government of Sikkim is a step in the right direction, and we must wholeheartedly support it for the collective well-being of our society.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi