By Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN

NAGPUR: The Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR) in Amravati district has decided to act against those feeding monkeys along the tar road passing through the reserve. Though feeding monkeys is illegal, it has become a common practice at many places in India. In Maharashtra's oldest tiger reserve it has now become a costly affair.

One private and one state transport buses were detained and drivers booked under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972. Just three days ago, the state highway passing through the core area of MTR recorded the death of a sloth bear near Semadoh on Harisal-Semadoh stretch of the highway. However, the same patch has been known for accidental deaths of wild animals. A leopard, sambar, porcupine and even a Dharni-based resident have lost their life on the stretch, the last when his bike hit a sambar recently.

On Sunday, a member of the Satpuda Foundation was travelling through the same patch when he saw a bus driver and passengers of Shriram Travels bus feeding bananas to monkeys. He warned the driver and was just 50 metres away when the driver started feeding the langurs again. He then asked the driver to park the vehicle at Semadoh chowki and informed the staff about the offence. However, the driver defied the forest staff and proceeded towards Paratwada. The SF member rushed to the gate after Semadoh village and stopped the vehicle. Range forest officer (RFO) MS Pachare and his squad immediately rushed to the gate and booked the vehicle and driver under WPA.

In the second case, a ST bus from Burhanpur to Amravati stopped at the same spot in the core area and driver Yuvraj Sonune, who had specially bought bananas from Dharni for the monkeys, started feeding them. The squad caught the ST driver red-handed while feeding the monkeys. And he was booked under the WPA. Many vehicles stop in this stretch and throw foodgrains and bananas for monkeys.

Many wild animals, including monkeys, are attracted to the roadside and this has led to many accidents involving wild animals, and an increase in monkey bites to passers-by. "The issue has become very serious. We have put up display boards and signages but people fail to understand the problem," said K P Singh, chief conservator of forests (CCF) and field director of MTR.

The forest department's action has created sensation among the people who think that it is good to feed the monkeys. However, they have to understand that it amounts to hurting the animals as per the WPA and there is a provision for seven years imprisonment along with heavy penalty.

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