Chhimi Dema

Monkeys – Assam Macaque and Grey Langur – are a big problem for the monks in Tango monastery in Thimphu.

Monkeys have been breaking into rooms, altar and kitchen to steal food and offerings. The sewage pipes are frequently broken by monkeys and CGI sheets bent by climbing on them.

In Cheri recently, a monkey snatched a woman’s handbag.

“The number of monkeys in Tango’s vicinity has increased,” said Gembo Dorji, a research officer at Tango monastery.

About 40 monkeys loiter in the area.

About 40 monkeys loiter in Tango area

Gembo Dorji said the monastery consulted the agriculture ministry on the issue and temporary electric fencings were installed.

“The greatest concern for us is electric short circuit,” Gembo Dorji said.

In Tango, last week, a monk’s quarter was raided by a monkey. And two days ago, a bear tore a 15kg tin of hydrogenated palm oil (dalda) and had eaten half of it.

Gembo Dorji said: “We are consulting with relevant organisations to find solutions.”

Over the past week, forestry officials chased the monkeys using firecrackers.


Implications of feeding wildlife 

Nature Conservation Division’s chief forestry officer, Sonam Wangdi, said that pilgrims feeding the monkeys and poor waste management were some of the reasons behind such incidents.

“When people feed them, animals get habituated in that area,” he said.  “When we feed a generation of monkeys then the next generation loses their instincts to search for food in the wild.”

This can cause monkeys to altogether lose their wild instincts and make them think that their source of food is from humans, Sonam Wangdi said.

The incidents are common in other dzongkhags and along the national highways as well.

Monkeys are mostly found along the road of Thimphu-Wangdue-Phuentsholing highway and also in Trongsa and Lingmethang in Mongar.

“It is becoming more and more challenging to control these animals,” Sonam Wangdi said.

In India, a monkey snatched a 12-day-old boy from his mother and killed him.

Senior forestry officer, Namgay Wangchuk, said that monkeys along the highway were because of poor waste management.

He said that people discard food wrappers and food along the road encouraging monkeys to consider it a food source.

“Animals get nutritious food from the wild than what we feed them,” Namgay Wangchuk said.

Officials said that regional tourism was another factor that caused the monkeys along the road to shift their habitat. “Tourists buy food solely to feed the monkeys on the way because macaque has a spiritual meaning in the Hindu religion.”

Poor waste management cause risks on other animals.

Predators such as leopard cats feed on rodents that feed near the roads, Namgay Wangchuk said, causing the cats to be run over by vehicles.

Another risk is the spread of zoonotic disease. Zoonotic diseases are spread from animals to humans.

Imbalance in ecosystem is another issue, Sonam Wangdi said.

Sonam Wangdi said that in Tango bears were drawn to the human settlement because of poor waste management.  “As part of our help towards communities who are affected by bears, we are now procuring bear-proof containers that cannot be broken by bears and are air-tight.”

He said bears are found in the herding communities because of poor food storage facilitates, in retreat because of ritual cakes (tormas) and in other places because of food waste.

According to the Forest and Nature Conservation Rules and Regulations of Bhutan 2017, feeding wild animal is an offence and shall be fined Nu 500 per occasion.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk