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Terrorists on four legs roam streets

- Stray monkeys flee habitat at Mahabali forest, scare Imphal residents

Imphal, June 27: Some stray monkeys have created terror among residents in Imphal West with at least six of them entering houses and roaming the city, putting wildlife officials on their trail.

The officials received reports of monkeys, which fled their habitat at Mahabali forest, in the heart of Imphal city, roaming the streets in residential areas like Sagolband and outside Kangla Fort.

There is no report of a monkey menace, though three of them were sighted at residential areas in Sagolband and another three outside Kangla Fort on Wednesday. People are terrified, as monkeys are not known to stray out of their habitats.

“We are on the trail of the monkeys. We sighted three in Sagolband and another three near Kangla Fort in the city. We are trying to capture them,” Manipur zoo director Arun R.S. said.

Wildlife officials could not say with certainty the reason for displacement of the monkeys, commonly known as Rhesus macaque.

“It could be human disturbance or lack of food that forced them out of their habitat. There aren’t many fruit-bearing tress inside the forest, though the population is increasing,” Arun said.

People for Animals, an NGO, working for the protection of wildlife, blamed activities by the state public works department of constructing a bridge across Imphal river on the southern portion of the forest for their displacement. The NGO estimated that at least 10 monkeys fled their habitat in the past few days.

Mahabali is a small forest on the banks of the Imphal river. It is the only habitat of this Schedule II species. The forest is considered sacred, as a Hanuman temple and the site of Mongba Hanba, a local deity, are located there.

It is very close to chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s office and the nearby VIP colony, housing official quarters of ministers and MLAs.

People come to worship here almost everyday and the monkeys roam freely to eat snacks and fruits offered by the devotees.

There is no report of any conflict between the monkeys and people residing around the forest though the monkeys regularly come out on the road running in front of the temple and the fringes of their habitat in search of food.

The state forest department is yet to carry out a headcount. “We cannot say the exact monkey population at Mahabali. We are considering a survey,” L. Joykumar Singh, deputy conservator of forest in-charge of sanctuaries and parks, said.

Wildlife activities and priests at the temple estimated that the population could be around 500.

Wildlife officials are trying to capture the “fleeing” monkeys because they fear that they might attack people, especially children and women, if they are teased or intimidated. They also fear that people may kill them.

“One big monkey was found sitting on the roof of our garage on Wednesday. We are terrified. It, however, jumped to the neighbouring house on seeing us,” Memcha Devi, a resident of Sagolband, said.


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