Been to Hurhurey Dara of late? Apart from the general dereliction of the footpath, scrumptiousness of the treats served up by hawkers and the disturbing volume of litter there, the location is also home to a troop of monkeys. And while there presence is still “cute” and pleasant in a capital town which does not otherwise see any wildlife around, it is also a development which should be addressed.
Usha Ganguli-Lachungpa, Principal Research Officer [Wildlife] at the Forest Department, informs that this troop of Assam Macaques came up to the erstwhile Tashiling Secretariat from the forest contiguous to the compound. They were attracted to the secretariat when a canteen opened there. No, they were not customers ;-) They started feeding off the kitchen waste which was dumped out in the open. Being omnivores, monkeys take well to our kitchen treats and this then became a regular food source for them. The secretariat is now being constructed anew, and the monkeys in the meanwhile have moved across the ridge to the Hurhurey Dara.
In their present address, they swing on the trees without inhibitions and are also known to have snatched food packets and snacks off unsuspecting people strolling there. It is also not rare to find the alpha male of the group bare fangs at those he believes he can intimidate. There have not been any reported cases of anyone being attacked or hurt by the troop at Hurhurey Dara, but so precautions are never wasted. Being aggressive and snatching food when possible is after all a natural instinct for monkeys, so it will have to the people who frequent the area to act more responsibly by leaving the monkeys alone and not teasing or feeding them – both extremes are ill advised.
Further, the diet of packaged snacks and other food items that the monkeys can be seen feeding out of plastic packets could not be good for them. As Ms. Lachungpa points out, denuding of their traditional haunt in the forests below could also be keeping the monkeys at this spot.
When asked about what the Department plans to address the situation and devise ways to prevent any conflict from transpiring or the monkey business growing out of Hurhurey Dara and becoming a nuisance across Gangtok [as has happened in Shimla and Delhi], another senior Forest Department officer stated that to begin with, people will have to act more responsibly. As a long term measure, the Department plans to send some officials to Himachal Pradesh to study how Shimla managed to solve its “monkey problem” and then adapt those solutions to Gangtok, he added.