Drop monkey relocation plan, Maneka tells forest dept

Drop monkey relocation plan, Maneka tells forest dept

Any discussion on urban wildlife in Bengaluru inevitably requires the presence of a senior representative of the Forest Department. But when Sanjai Mohan, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), took on the task, he found himself in the lion’s den.

At a panel discussion on ‘Living With the Wild’ on Saturday, Mohan defended the department following accusations of “insensitivity” by the city-based environmentalist Leo Saldanha and BJP parliamentarian Maneka Gandhi, who placed him in the spotlight over several issues.

While Maneka, who sat in the audience during the discussion, interjected to point instances of egregious actions or neglect by the department towards wildlife, she took a particularly hard stance on a recent order issued by the department to relocate all monkeys from the city.

“Kindly withdraw the monkey relocation order, chief. Crores have been spent relocating monkeys but they always come back,” she said, pointing out that a move by Himachal Pradesh to reduce the monkey population through sterilisation had backfired by creating troops of hyper-aggressive monkeys while costing the exchequer Rs 600 crore.

The mood became more combative when Saldanha of the Environment Support Group, raised the issue of an elephant being fatally struck by a train in Rajabhatkhowa, West Bengal, as a sign of society’s belief that wildlife has to follow human rules.

“That train did not belong there. The Forest Department needs to be educated about its lack of sensitivity. They have this belief that elephants will follow human rules,” he said.

Mohan responded that the department is a sensitive organisation. “We had a wildlife board meeting just two days ago. We should appreciate the addition of two PAs. Coming to urban wildlife, I have been wildlife warden for the last eight months and every day, there are hundreds of requests for snake rescues — but where is the habitat? I am concerned about snakes and monkeys. These cases are high,” he said.

Nagesh Manay, a trustee in the NGO People for Animals (PFA), which organised the discussion, pointed out the city has seen a decrease of animals which play a major role in keeping the city disease-free and green. PFA’s data shows that palm squirrels, bonnet macaques, rose-ringed parakeets and insects help with pollination. Owls, frogs, snakes, lizards, kites and spiders, deal with disease vectors such as mosquitoes, rodents and organic waste.

“If you remove wildlife from the city, you will lose all your flowers and trees, and your air,” Maneka said.