Agra: The city administration, in collaboration with Wildlife SOS, has come up with a pilot project to sterilize and vaccinate 500 monkeys. The project is set to cost Rs 2 crore. Wildlife SOS officials said they have employed a Hong Kong-based trapping model for catching the simians. The project will be tested at three spots in the city — SN Medical College, District Collectorate and Belnaganj, all of which are infested by monkeys. Divisional commissioner Pradip Bhatnagar, who launched the collaborative programme on Tuesday, said: "The Agra Development Authority, district administration and forest department have partnered with Wildlife SOS to address the issue of the exploding monkey population in a scientific and humane manner. The programme has been launched in response to complaints from the local residents and tourists visiting in the city." People in Agra feed the monkeys and this is resulting in a population explosion and leading to an increase in human-primate conflicts. We will need the support of the public to implement the program successfully," he added. Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said: "There are around 500 monkeys at SN Medical College, around 800 in Belanganj and about 200 in the District Collectorate. Due to the ease with which food is available these large simian troops are living in small areas, unlike how they would live in forests."
Depending on the results of the pilot project, authorities will decided on how to deal with the remaining monkeys in these areas and the rest of the city. "We will install specially designed cages at specific locations in the three areas and trap entire groups. These rhesus macaques will be subjected to sterilization through laparoscopic surgery and after post-operative care they will be released in the same area. This will eventually stop breeding and spreading disease. Veterinary experts from Hong Kong visited our facility to train our veterinarians in the specialised key-hole surgery." Baiju Raj, who also works for the NGO, said: "The procedure is not traumatic for the animals and will not impact their welfare or life negatively." Satyanarayan informed TOI that the target, 500, for the pilot project will be achieved by March this year. He added that a survey of 700 people in Agra was conducted to get their feedback on the drive. As many as 93% of those surveyed said they have lost their mental peace due to the destructive activities of these monkeys.