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from Yomiuri Shimbun


Nikko serious about monkey management

Yomiuri Shimbun

The Tochigi prefectural government will give lectures to local residents in Nikko in the prefecture to help them oust mischievous monkeys rampaging around the Okunikko area northwest of the city.

The monkeys first bit and harassed the occasional tourist, but their mischief now has escalated into a serious problem for local agriculture and forests.

Both the prefectural and the Nikko municipal governments have tackled the problem by giving monkeys electric shocks or by banning tourists from feeding them. However, their efforts have had little success.

"We expect to use the brains of local people to combat this monkey menace," said an official of the prefectural government's natural environment division.

Damage caused by monkeys last year to the agricultural sector was estimated at 24 million yen, while that to forests was 3 million yen. However, invisible damages have also emerged, such as workers in the agricultural and forestry industries giving up their jobs because they can no longer bear the years of monkey mischief.

A new strategy to combat the monkeys will make use of transmitters attached to about 30 of the pesky primates.

The officials will track groups of the monkeys, then attempt to frighten them by shooting off fireworks before they get close to areas where humans live.

The officials have been trained in how to use the receivers and fireworks and have studied the behavioral patterns and ecology of monkeys.

The prefectural government will offer a lecture from the end of May to the local residents and those who are willing to join in the project. The government will train a group of specialists in the art of monkey combat and vows to get the better of the beasts in the end.

The lecture will be offered about five times a year. However, the government says it will offer more lectures and lend receivers to local people when they are needed.

In addition, from fiscal 2002, the government will strengthen its monkey patrol along the Irohazaka road, a famous sight-seeing spot near the city.

The new system not only warns tourists of monkey attacks, but also instructs them on how to disperse the prehensile-tailed pests.

Officials said they have redoubled their vigilance and are now focusing on monkey management year round, rather than the spring to autumn tourist season.

The prefectural government used to give electric shocks to captured monkeys to implant a sense of fear in them.

However, even if this technique succeeded in breaking the spirits of one group of monkeys, another would come to take its place, which would have little effect on long-term monkey discipline problems, sources said.

The electric-shock project lasted for only three months because tourists complained it was cruel.

The effects of the 2000 municipal ordinance, prohibiting tourists from feeding monkeys, have been similarly unremarkable, sources said.

Copyright 2002 The Yomiuri Shimbun

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