Even monkeys are starving

Deccan Chronicle.  | dc correspondent

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Macaques of Amrabad have grown so used to being fed by pilgrims, they don't forage any more

File picture of monkeys waiting for food delivery on the road to Srisailam passing through Amrabad Tiger Reserve.

Hyderabad: It’s not just street dogs in the cities that have become the unwitting victims of the coronavirus lockdown. Monkeys that are used to being fed by pilgrims travelling through the Amrabad Tiger Reserve in Telangana are finding their food supply chain disrupted too.

On an average, 500-600 vehicles pass through the Amrabad Tiger Reserve along the pilgrim trail to Srisailam. On weekends, the number ranges from 2,000 to 3000.

Used to being fed scraps thrown out of vehicle windows, troops of monkeys, mostly rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), sit on either side of the road, especially at speed breakers.

Amrabad forest range officer J Sudhakar says the monkeys seem to have grown skinny in just the week or so since the nation was put under a coronavirus lockdown.

Indeed, there are fruit trees in the forest that can be an alternative food source but the monkeys have grown used to food thrown by passing pilgrims.

“Maybe in a week or so they will realise that the days of free meals are over and move into the forest,” said the officer.

It is quite possible that some hungry troops may march to Mannanur village on the highway, which marks the beginning of the forest road in Telangana, or to Vatvarlapally village in the middle of the tiger reserve.

However, after the total lockdown began, people in these villages too are staying indoors and the monkeys may have no option but to forage in the forest.

This has already happened in the Kawal Tiger Reserve, through which several roads pass. Monkey troupes there are reported to have returned to the forest and have been sighted around percolation tanks and feeding on the fruits of trees in the forest.