As the crowing of a rooster signals the break of dawn in Taplejung in eastern Nepal, two men grab their slingshots and head out to work. They know they have a long day ahead of them, guarding the orange trees from the hungry monkeys that roam the forests.
These staffers at the orange research centre in Taplejung aren’t alone in their struggle. Across Nepal’s central hill country, thousands of farmers face the same problem: troops of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), accustomed to human food, enter their fields, leaving behind a trail of destruction and exasperated farmers.
“Sometimes we feel that we are farming not to feed ourselves, we are doing it for the monkeys,” says Ram Prasad Timsina from Pokhara. “They are not afraid to attack us if they find us alone.”
Fed up with the monkeys, everyone from farmers to government officials at the municipal through to national levels have long been looking for quick-fix solutions to the issue. Then recent reports emerged from another South Asian country, Sri Lanka, that’s also dealing with crop-raiding macaques. That country’s agriculture minister announced the proposed export of 1,00,000 toque macaques (Macaca sinica) to China in a bid “to control their population”.
While the government in Colombo said the monkeys would be sent to zoos in…