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Slow start to monkey drive

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 8: It’s tough catching monkeys, as the catch at the end of Day I of an endeavour to remove simians from the Puri Jagannath temple proved.

A dozen Mankadia tribals from Mayurbhanj, employed to carry out the mission, could catch only eight monkeys on Wednesday.

After the rituals were completed last night, the tribals started their three-hour operation to lay traps for the simians. But the tribals, apparently more adept at catching moneys in forests than temples, were disappointed with their catch. The operation would be carried out only at night.

Wildlife personnel from Nandan Kanan, who assisted the tribals, put the captured monkeys in cages and took them to the zoo.

More than 4,000 monkeys live on the temple premises and survive on leftovers. They routinely snatch eatables, prasad and even wallets from visitors. At times, they also “raid” neighbouring areas and loot food and fruits.

“They tear our clothes, which are dried on the rooftop, to shreds. They enter houses and even take food from refrigerators,” a woman living in the neighbourhood complained.

Temple administrator Binod Mohanty said: “We wrote to the Mayurbhanj district administration, which sent a team of tribals to evict the monkeys. We hope the operation will reduce the number of simians.”

Range officer of the Puri wildlife division, Gyana Mohanty, said trained workers from Nandan Kanan were cooperating with the Mankadias. “The monkeys will be put in cages brought from the zoo and released later.”

A wildlife expert, though, was not impressed with the idea of using the Mankadias to rein in monkeys.

“A better way would be to use sedatives and tranquillisers and catch them while they are under its effect. I wonder if the tribals can catch them after the first effort as the monkeys are highly intelligent and will avoid the traps,” said wildlife activist Biswajit Mohanty.

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