It is not long ago when Dhaka was a happy habitat for all kinds of animals. Monkeys in particular were found in the city in hundreds and thousands. However, with the mushrooming of concrete buildings in every nook and corner to shelter the ever-increasing human population and the loss of natural resources of foods, the number of these primates has shrunk significantly.
Besides, that monkeys use overhanging electrical wires to cross busy roads, often being electrocuted is also attributable to their fast decline. Moreover, there are the issues like diseases and poaching.
Even about a couple of decades ago, monkeys could be found across 11 areas in Dhaka; currently, their settlements are limited to four areas only, including old Dhaka (and larger number across the river in Jinjira), Bangabhaban, Dhaka Cantonment and the airport area. And, it is reported, some monkeys are recently sighted in Uttara.
According to forest department, the total number of monkeys in the various areas in the capital will be around 1000. Of the monkeys living in the capital’s various parts, those residing in the cantonment are leading a relatively better life. The ecosystem there is still in a better shape and there is abundance of natural foods for the primates’ survival. But the scenarios are not same in the other areas.
However, the urban monkeys have indeed learnt a few tricks to survive in the city. They must steal human food to survive where there are no trees. They would socialise on the rooftops and have fun in a way its not possible in forests.
Inconsistency in food supply prompts the monkeys to invade residential buildings, where they enter homes through unmonitored gates or open windows. They break into fridges, destroy plants, and steal clothes from rooms and rooftops.
But ever so often, the monkeys’ innocent playfulness goes too far, evoking the wrath of the locals. There have been incidents when the monkeys have been sloshed with boiling water or beaten.
The message is clear. This is that the community’s willingness to integrate and accept the monkeys is the only way to protecting them. If this delicate balance is ever toppled, the primates will be exiled from their century-old natural habitat which humans have urbanised.