The Forest Department has taken plan to capture eight to 10 monkeys from the capital for sending them to Nijhum Dwip in the Bay of Bengal to help out the island’s spotted deer population in acute food crisis.
Foresters told New Age that leaves to be dropped by monkeys would help the hungry deer get their favourite feed.
They also said that the island’s spotted deer population had been facing food crisis due to rapid deforestation, growing human habitation as well as trees getting tall beyond the reach of deer.
The divisional forest office at Noakhali has requested for releasing 10 pairs of monkeys in the island’s man-made forest so that fresh leaves dropped by them would help deer fill their stomachs.
Zoological experts said monkeys traditionally helped starving deer get fresh leaves from tall trees.
They said when the monkeys move from tree to tree fresh leaves fall for the deer to eat.
Foresters also expressed concern over what they called a rapid decline in the island’s deer population to 20,000 from 30,000 in 2015.
They blamed fast deforestation in the island for the decline in its deer population.
Besides leaves, some of the fruits, seeds and the roots of Keora are the favourite staples for the deer.
Leaves and fruits have gone beyond the reach of the island’s thinner deer population since the trees grew quite tall, divisional forest officer of Noakhali Tawhidul Islam told New Age.
He said food shortage forces deer to leave the forest and migrate to nearby islands even by crossing the difficult waters of the Hatia Channel.
He said that the deer often stray into homes of people in search of food.
The food crisis diminishes for the deer during the rainy season when the Keora trees bloom and start to bear fruits.
The island’s deer population is habituated to fill their hungry stomachs with the falling Keora leaves and fruits, he said.
The deer leave forests in packs in search of grass which they find elusive due to the island’s cows and buffalos getting easier access to the grazing grounds, said Khulna Zone Forest Conservator Md Amir Hossain Chowdhury, former DFO of Noakhali.
Amir Hossain recalled that at least twice since 2015 he requested the higher authorities to send monkeys to the Nijhum Dwip to help the island’s deer population.
He said that he had proposed for releasing 10 pairs of monkeys in the island’s forest as they are known as natural friends of deer.
At long last the Forest Department took the decision to capture eight to 10 monkeys, a half of what was asked for, from the capital and send them to the Nijhum Dwip.
Forest Department’s Wildlife inspector Ashim Mallik said that in February they received a request from the naval authorities to capture monkeys living within the Navy headquarters boundaries as they disturb children and attack passers-by.
According to Dhaka University professor of Zoology and primate expert Mohammad Firoj Jaman about 350 monkeys, mostly of the Rhesus Macaque species, were still to be found in the capital.
This species, also known as the Rhesus Monkey, found throughout most of South Asia is considered to be the most talented monkeys capable of adapting to any situation and help the deer in the forests, he said.
In 1978, four pairs of spotted deer, locally called ‘chitra horin’ and a few monkeys were released in the Nijhum Dwip said forest officials.
All the monkeys perished during the cataclysmic cyclone of 1991, they said.