NEW DELHI: Not a single monkey has been sterilised in Delhi since January 2019 when the Centre released funds to the city forest department to control the simian population through laparoscopic sterilisation, officials said.
In 2018, the then chief wildlife warden, Ishwar Singh, had prepared a three-year plan to sterilise monkeys of reproductive age to curb the simian menace in the national capital.
The Centre sanctioned Rs 5.43 crore to the forest department in January 2019 for sterilisation of 8,000 monkeys in the first year.
Over two-and-a-half years later, officials say "not a single monkey has been sterilised in Delhi."
"The forest department had floated tenders thrice, but no agency (to capture and sterilise monkeys) came forward. Not much could be done during the (COVID-19) pandemic. I believe the fund has been returned to the Centre. There is no proposal for sterilisation pending now," a senior forest department official said.
In 2007, the Delhi High Court had asked municipal corporations to catch monkeys from human habitations and shift them to Asola sanctuary.
It had directed the forest department to provide the animals food so that they do not venture out.
At present, there are more than 25,000 monkeys in the sanctuary and there is no count of those roaming free in human habitations, according to officials.
Sonya Ghosh, a member of a Delhi High Court-appointed committee for translocation of monkeys, said the panel last met before the pandemic and nothing has happened since then.
The official quoted above said the panel is scheduled to meet in the third week of November.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had sanctioned the National Institute of Immunology and Wildlife Institute of India to develop a reversible contraceptive vaccine to control monkey population.
According to the official and Ghosh, there is no update on the vaccine so far.
Ghosh also alleged that old, ill and injured monkeys are being "dumped into the Asola sanctuary for leopards."
Deputy Conservator of Forests (South Division) Amit Anand said the department cannot conduct sterilisation on its own due to "shortage of manpower."
He added that sterilisation may not yield the desired results as "an alpha male captured will be replaced by another male".
"Monkeys will become aggressive which will increase cases of man-animal conflict. It is not a proven successful method. The relocated monkeys are adapting to their new habitat (Asola). Many venture out, but are captured and brought back. The process continues till they form a bond with the natural environment," the official noted.