Hungry monkeys raid farms in north India as forests shrink
JAMMU, India (Thomas Reuters Foundation) – Panicked monkeys jump off an orange tree and disappear fast as angry children pelt them with stones and shout abuse. Crackers are let off in the distance, and more kids rush out to a nearby field, dotted with scarecrows, to stop wild animals destroying crops.
For a few years now, the small farmers of Pouni block, an area surrounded by green hills and mountains in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district, have faced an unusual threat from hungry wildlife whose forest habitats are in decline.
The animals are harming crops, livestock and even people here in India’s far north. In many villages, almost entire crops have been damaged on a yearly basis, threatening to bring food insecurity for small farmers living in and around traditional forest areas.
“The monkeys don’t spare any crop in our fields,” said Bal Krishan Arya, a resident of Kheralair village in Pouni block, pointing to the devoured shoots of his wheat plants. “They have destroyed my orange orchard, not leaving a single fruit on any tree.”
“There used to be dense forest on the higher reaches of the hills, but in the past few decades, the forest canopy has become patchy,” said Arya. The nearby Bayard forests were well known for their thick bamboo bushes but in the recent past, they have thinned out dramatically. Other trees have suffered too, shrinking the area’s natural vegetation.
Arya blames “reckless tree-felling” due to development activities undertaken by the state – mainly road building and expansion of human settlements – as well as local people’s dependence on wood for fuel and other purposes.