A small vegetable outlet which can be easily run by a single person is being managed by four people. One person is selling the vegetables, while the other three guard them from the monkeys that keep strolling down the streets. Even in households, people are extra careful about keeping their doors locked to prevent monkeys from entering and snatching away food or other things within reach. This is the situation in the towns such as Dornakal, Garla and others in the Mahabubabad district of Telangana.
“Oh, the monkeys create such a mess, they keep us on our toes,” says a Dornakal resident Swarupa. “They keep coming into our houses and get into the rooms and take away the food that is available along with the bowls too. After consuming the food, they throw off the bowls somewhere. We have to then ask our neighbours if the monkey had thrown anything in their house. These kinds of exchanges are quite common here,” she adds.
It's a common sight in Dornakal to see a row of monkeys casually walking on fencing walls, roof tops, jumping from one building to the other while carrying their offspring. Many of these monkeys have a more ‘permanent’ abode too – the Dornakal Junction Railway station. Hundreds of monkeys roam here freely, feeding on the food available at the station. Sometimes they are even fed by passengers, and other times, they have been known to ‘snatch’ food away too.
“Monkeys keep causing us a lot of trouble in the station and inconvenience to the passengers. They remove the dustbin covers, they empty the bins and strew the waste in it onto the platform. Sanitation of the station is getting affected due to this. We are even afraid to have our lunch in the afternoons as there have been several instances when our boxes were taken away by the monkeys,” says the Dornakal Station manager, R Kanaka Raju.
The station manager added that multiple representations to the local municipalities have not yielded any results. “In the month of September also, we gave a representation to the local municipality but no action has been taken on the monkey menace.”
One of the former employees of the Dornakal Municipality said that the monkey populations are aplenty in many places in the Mahabubabad district. He added that over the years most of the forest land has been converted into agricultural land, which is one of the reasons why monkeys are there in the area. Though there were attempts to leave monkeys in the Bhadrachalam forests, they kept returning.
Though they survive well in these towns, many times, monkeys have also died of electrocution as they keep hanging from the electric wires. And there was also an instance a couple of years back, when the monkey got stuck in an electric wire and the train to Kothagudem was delayed as a result.
The local municipality officials say that they cannot help controlling the monkeys. “Even a couple of years ago, we tried to catch monkeys using monkey catchers who trap them using food. The catchers take Rs 400 to Rs 500 per monkey which makes it a costly process, given the number of monkeys here. Besides, it is not the only town where there are monkeys,” said one of the Dornakal Municipality officials, Venkateshwarlu.
Over the period of time, the population of monkeys has also increased manifold. Officials attribute several reasons for the increase of the monkey population. “Monkeys are profuse breeders. And they are neither prey or predator as they do not feed on animals and they are one of the isolated species in the food chain too. They can survive on any kind of food and are smart enough to live even in the urban jungles. Though at times there are measures like sterilization and translocating them to other locations, it's not a permanent solution,” said the District Forest Officer, T Ravi Kiran.