22 May 2001. Environmentalists, including Dr. W. Dittus and Sunil Gunathilake, argue against government plans to distribute air-rifles to farmers for the protection of their crops from raids by monkeys and squirrels.

From a telephone interview with reporter Malaka Rodgigo, published in the Sunday Times newspaper of 22 May 2011, Dr. Wolfgang Dittus and Sunil Gunathilake responded to plans by the Sri Lankan  government, Ministry of Coconut Development and State Plantations, to distribute air-rifles to farmers  to ward off monkeys and giant squirrels from damaging their crops.  They point out that shooting monkeys with air rifles, is by itself an inappropriate and inadequate response to prevent pest problems.  Instead, they pointed out that to prevent pest problems with monkeys  a more comprehensive approach is required whereby farmers (and others subject to monkey raids) take steps not to attract monkeys to their properties in the first place. The causes for attracting monkeys includes, for example,  the all too common littering of kitchen and other food scraps as well as easily accessible water sources, such as open water tanks and drains and leaky garden faucets.  They point out that removing all such attractions is an important prerequisite  to prevent pest raids on crops. In addition, Dr. Dittus indicated that personnel, who are specially trained to deal with monkey raids, would be a necessary component to prevent pest raids. Dr. Dittus and his team are negotiating with the Ministry of Economic Development of how best to address the monkey pest problems in affected areas (see news item of 8 March 2011).   Mr. Gunathilake pointed out that the encroachment of humans on monkey natural habitat, and the freely available human food scraps and water found there has stimulated unnatural monkey population growth, that might be controlled in the long-run through sterilization of females monkeys.

Dr. Dittus emphasized that easily accessible air-rifles poses a real risk to the loss of eyes among humans, especially children, as well as among wild and domestic animals. Pellet-guns also inflict serious festering wounds in monkeys and other animals.

In summary, there is no easy one-step solution to the animal pest problem.  Instead, the cause for the problem needs to be removed, and this requires a more comprehensive and planned approach than simply injuring or killing wild animals.  The toque macaque and giant squirrel are both endemic species.

For the full story see the original article in The Sunday Times May 22, 2011