For people at Palavanatham village near here, hundreds of monkeys all around the place are not at all a nuisance. Instead, they protect the animals and even feed them.
Manoharan, a resident who is a TV mechanic, says the monkeys have been there in the village for over 40 years. They were in the forest areas of Watrap near Srivilliputhur and later moved to Palavanatham.
“The people of Watrap used to come to Aruppukottai to sell fruit and vegetables. This drew the animals into the villages, because the traders, while travelling by bus, used to leave their baskets of fruit and vegetables on the top of the buses, and that was the attraction for the simians,” Manoharan says.
Besides, he says, there were several trees in Palavanatham village and the monkeys, after arriving there by bus top, used to take shelter on the trees.
Another reason was that the trees in the hamlet were axed to give way for roads and other developmental activities. And over the years, the animals began migrating to the residential areas. Initially, the residents feared the simian intrusion but later they got used to it, though the monkeys damaged the telephone cables in the area. Some of the residents even leave food and water on the terrace for the animals.
Says Velammal, “The monkeys enter the house, take the vessels containing food and run away; they also snatch food from children. Some of the residents got annoyed and start chasing the monkeys away by wielding long sticks. Gradually, the villagers grew fond of them.”
When contacted about the wild animals invading human habitat, a senior official in the Forest Department, who did not wished to be named, said the monkeys come under the category of wild animals and they should be living only in the forests. The official said the villagers complained that some of these animals were dying in large numbers. He feels that the invaders fed on leftovers in the dustbins, leading to them dying of infections.
Also, the forest official has asked the residents to stop feeding the monkeys, which, he feels, will be the best way to drive them back to where they belong, the forests. “Home of the wild is in the wild and not human settlements. The people should not try to domesticate or encourage the beasts in the interest of human safety and security,” the official added.