Primates of Narsapur forest make the highway famous

Primates of Narsapur forest make the highway famous

The early morning mist of the deciduous forest of the picturesque Narsapur and the ghat section of the highway that links Bodhan with Hyderabad has an added attraction. Those travelling by road, be it state roadways bus, four-wheeler, truck or motorcycle, look for the friendly monkeys just after reaching Gummadidala.

The monkeys wait patiently close enough to the road to pick up food thrown by the people on the stretch starting from Gummadidala to Narsapur. Many animal lovers drive to the region only to feed monkeys. The primates are used to offerings by the passersby and they silently gather around anyone who parks their vehicle on the roadside hoping that they might have brought some food to eat.

A Gopal, a businessman from Anantapur who is now settled in Hyderabad,
visits the forest every Thursday to feed monkeys. A staunch devotee of Shirdi Saibaba, he said “I saw these monkeys during one of my business trips to Bodhan. I saw them starved as the forest was dry and had no water sources for the poor animals to quench their thirst.”

He decided to do something and started taking van loads of bananas for the hungry monkeys that wait for food thrown from the moving buses.

Almost a decade later, Gopal still feeds the monkeys every Thursday. “They recognise my white Omni van and come running. They are mischievous but are well-mannered while I distribute them the bananas,” he says. There are many good Samaritans from the twin cities who travel on weekends to feed monkeys making them forget their natural instinct and totally dependent on humans to satisfy their hunger.

“Now they simply wait for the buses to arrive and hope that someone might throw something out of the window. Many young monkeys are getting crushed under the wheels,” Ms Padma Devender Reddy, former Congress MLA from Narsapur said.

Local people revere monkeys as there is a famous Hanuman temple on the highway and believe that the monkey god resides deep inside the forest. “But animals can’t differentiate between a kind heart and a reckless driver,” Reddy said.
The temple committee has erected several sign boards on both sides of the road urging the travelers not to throw food on the road.

“We ask passengers to carry the food with them and feed animals off the road or a metre away from the highway so that the monkeys won’t run across the road turning them into road kill,” Sravan Kumar, a local trader from Gummadidala, said.

The locals also have a reason to rejoice as monkeys made their Maoist-infested region famous. “The attention from all walks of life has changed the face of Narsapur forest region forever. There are some shops selling bananas and nuts for monkeys and bird seed for the bird watchers,” Sravan adds.

The people of Narsapur have seen several Maoist leaders hiding in the forest making travel impossible at night time. “The lights in these adjacent villages used to be switched off by 7 pm and everybody used to be indoors till dawn,” the villagers of Variguntam remember.

However, not everyone is happy with the increasing number of primates at the Narsapur forest, as they started straying to the neighbouring Hyderabad city, which is 40 km from Gummadidala and 15 km from Dundigal airforce station in Annaram. A few cases of people falling prey to monkey attacks and getting injured have been reported from these areas. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation has been hiring monkey catchers from other states and paying them Rs 750 per monkey following complaints from city outskirts.

“They come to the city during summer when the flora is under deep stress,” a GHMC official said, adding that they generally return to their natural habitat in Narsapur.
The stretch that made the Narsapur road famous also has became a tourist spot. Maverick director producer Ramgopal Verma shot most of his Telugu crime thriller Kshana-Kshanam in the Narsapur forest. He also shot his Hindi flick Daud and horror movie Raat in Narsapur.

After becoming famous for its roadside monkeys many started reaching Narsapur to spend their time riding bikes during weekends.

“Hence the name of Monkey trail,” says a dirt bike enthusiast who frequents the forest area. As the bikers are on their own, they often complain about lack of facilities like communications, drinking water and lights at a few places. “Many of us had bloody scars as there are too many bushes in the monkey trail. But no complaints,” Srikanth, a IT professional from the Wipro, said.

Other than bikers, a few bird watchers also venture deep into the forest. A few bloggers mentioned spotting the Rufous morph male Paradise Flycatcher, Common Hawk Cuckoo, Loras & Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Yellow Billed Babblers, Hoopoe, Black-headed Cuckoo shrike, Woodpeckers, small Green Bee eaters, Blue tailed Bee eater, Whistling Teals, Spot bill Ducks & Unid Terns. A few bird watchers during one of the corporate bird watch games also found rare Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher.

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