COIMBATORE/DHARMAPURI: With the lockdown still in place, it is no secret that stray animals are finding it tough to find food. While many are doing their best to feed them, some have also turned their attention towards monkeys that are used to being fed by humans.
A group of villagers have begun feeding Bonnet Macaques present at Velliangiri Andavar temple in Poondi to prevent them from starving to death. However, officials from the Forest Department and animal rights activists oppose the action.
Residents of of Ikkarai Boluvampatti Semmedu village state that due to the lockdown, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HR&CE) had closed the temple. With the monkeys getting used to being fed by humans, a few reportedly died due to hunger, they add.
"On Tuesday, we fed cooked rice and on Wednesday we fed them tomatoes. We have also asked local farm owners to provide us with bananas," said R Rajkumar, a villager.
Likewise, Ashok Kumar a two-wheeler mechanic and resident of Udumalai is also feeding bonnet macaques at Arulmigu Amanalingeswarar Temple at Thirumurthy dam. Sources said that he is procuring fruits that will go to waste from fruit stalls.
Activists across Dharmapuri are also feeding monkeys which have moved out of forests along the national highways near Thoppur toll plaza, Hogenakkal road and other parts of the district. In Theerthamalai, activists have been dropping boxes of fruits. Likewise, some youth have been dropping fruits in the forest area surrounding Thoppur and Hogenakkal-Pennagaram road.
However, animal rights activists opposed the action. "The monkeys will survive with what they can find inside the forest. Feeding them will affect their health," said an animal lover.
Forest department officials confirmed that humans should not feed the animals. However, they conceded that the animal is habituated to food offered by humans.
Dharmapuri District Forest Officer Rajkumar said that the monkeys can find sufficient food in the forest. If people stop feeding the animals, they would move back to the forest, he added.