Compassionate people derive satisfaction from feeding the temple monkeys, but it is clear that hand feeding exacerbates the problems of overpopulation, malnutrition, and aggression.

The issue of urban wildlife and livestock has occupied a significant amount of our time in recent years, focusing on stray dogs, stray cattle, and of course those icons of Kathmandu, the Rhesus Macaques, or “temple monkeys." Each of these species encounters unique challenges in adapting to city life, and their presence impacts the daily lives of people in the city.

Our experience with urban dog management is transferable, though the temple monkeys do present some of the most complicated and least understood issues in urban animal management.

Having set up in 2015 and nurtured Manu Mitra, Kathmandu's successful owner-less urban dog management initiative, my colleagues and I developed a deep understanding of the dynamics of urban dogs and the effectiveness of community-based management techniques. This understanding is transferable, though the temple monkeys do present some of the most complicated and least understood issues in urban animal management.

People have deep reverence for the monkeys, which frequent many other busy sections of the city, in addition to the temples. We understand that it is a heartwarming sight when compassionate people derive satisfaction from feeding the monkeys, but it is clear that hand feeding exacerbates the problems of overpopulation, accidental death, aggression. At the same time, human food like bread, pastries, fried foods, and meats introduces unhealthy levels of sugar, protein, and carbohydrates to this otherwise robust species.

Aamod Dahal, a young lawyer I have worked with on animal issues, designed a feeder that the monkeys can operate by themselves to release food that is healthy for them.

I have engaged with this issue for more than a decade, engaging in rescue, successful rehabilitation and release of this species into the wild. We also successfully saved many of this intelligent and resourceful species from exploitation by commercial breeders and laboratories. As we consider the imminent welfare concerns of the monkeys while we focus on long-term management, it is critical that we balance the concern of food availability and the impact of excessive food to these primates. 

Clearly, the plight of city monkeys as they encounter such immediate dangers as traffic accidents, electrocution on bare high-power electricity cables, malnutrition, and human assaults, urgently demands a comprehensive solution.

That's why the recent invitation that I received from Aamod Dahal, a young lawyer I have worked on animal issues, was especially exciting. He proposed a self-dispensing feeder for the monkeys that the monkeys can operate by themselves. A selfless activist and an avid animal lover, Aamod now works for for the office of the Prime Minister.  He personally designed and invested in a prototype of the monkey feeder, which will dispense grains of healthy corn and wheat, to provide a regular supply of more natural food for monkeys around Kalmochan temple in Thapathali in Kathmandu.

I could see that this modest device of Aamod’s is potentially revolutionary. Besides addressing the animals' immediate nutritional challenges, his unit allows us to collect data and create a potential solution to a much larger issue. The study is also quite engaging for primate enthusiasts, as it allows us to peek into the ethological side of these highly intelligent and social animals. We plan to closely observe the impact of the feeding unit in the monkey troop dynamics around the Kalmochan temple area. 

The study will allow us to peek into the ethological side of these highly intelligent and social animals that give humans such satisfaction. We plan to closely observe the impact of the feeding unit in the monkey troop dynamics around the Kalmochan temple area. 

I am eager to apply what we learn, so that we can enrich the lives and better regulate the niche of the Rhesus Macaques. It is our hope that the urban habitat that we share with this highly entertaining and intelligent species can foster a more harmonious and healthy coexistence between the monkey and human primate species.

 

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