During the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown, pictures from all over the world began surfacing on the inter- net where animals were seen occupying the urban spaces. Many people were enthralled by this idea of wild animals occupying the urban spaces as it was giving wildlife the opportunity to reinhabit a space which was historically entirely theirs. But in reality wild animals were always there in those urban spaces even before the COVID 19 lockdown and are hugely dependent on the humans for their survival. They can’t be sent back because they have no-where else to go.

In India, strolling through the streets of old Delhi one can see how many animals in the streets. Pigeons, cows, stray dogs and monkeys are the most common animals seen over here. Monkeys often scrambling over the rooftops and searching the leftovers from the trash bin, are mostly harmless but they do occasionally snatch food items from humans. Animal rights activists are always vocal in India about accommodating animals into these urban spaces and are most visible for the rights of stray dogs in urban spaces.

“In their book Zoopolis, Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka stress on various points about the impor- tance to accommodate these animals acknowledg- ing the fact that they have no-where else to go as their territories have been violated/occupied by the humans. According to Donaldson and Kymlicka, not only should humans respect wild animals’ universal rights (by not killing them, for example), but also should better accommodate these animals by acknowledging that they are not obliged to cooperate with humans or demonstrate human-like self-control. “ quotes Alyson Fortowsky in his article What Do Humans Owe to Wildlife in Urban Spaces.

Something easier said than done.  In rural India, the situation and the conflict between animals and humans are more grim and tough. The threat posed by animals are often fatal to their lives and livelihood.

Wild animals like boar, elephant, tigers and leopards have ventured out of their territories and attacked the livelihood and lives of the people living in the forest fringes.

Two types of monkeys frequent my house. One is the Rhesus Macaques, which is more aggressive and mostly seen monkeys in India. These monkeys are tougher to scare away as they know how the humans behave and have been acquainted with the human habitats. The other one is the black languor which are rare to be seen. They are easily scared by the humans and are more shy and less aggressive. Monkeys come to my house thrice in a week, more so during this lockdown, from a nearby hill and eat whatever they can from my house and the adjacent plantation.

That includes, Zapota (chikoo), coconuts, mangoes, pumpkin, jackfruit and tender leaves of almost all the plants. Coconuts are inevitable for traditional Kerala cuishine. So, losing a large share of coconuts to monkeys is economically draining for the middle-class families. During the lockdown, I have documented monkeys that are frequenting my house. Earlier I was trying to scare them away and at some point I planned to photograph them.

NB: I haven’t included the photos of black languar yet. All these were shot using a 18-105mm, as these happenings were near to me. Myself and my family have not hurt any monkey yet, and neither have they hurt us, physically.

A monkey climbing to the roof of the house through a adjacent tree.
Monkeys hopping at my balcony is a common sight now.
They eat jackfruits, tender leaves, mangoes and everything we cultivate.
During summers they break the water tanks and drink water from it.

In order to prevent such damages people put grills on the top of the tanks. But yet, monkeys find ways, often breaking the pipes connected to get water. Keeping a bucket filled with water helps, but it gets tiring when the monkeys come on a frequent basis and they always come in a group of 10 or more, carrying children along with them.
As the monsoon begins, the food drains, making them dependable on the leftovers.
But when left with no option, they often eat the food grains left outside to dry.
My mother, Kallyanikutty, shooing away the monkeys.
People use crackers to scare the monkeys away.
My mother has a peculiar way for firing crackers.
A monkey peeping into my room from the roof.
As days passed by, monkeys were acquainted with the sound of crackers and they no longer got scared. Sometimes, they pose, waiting for me to click them.


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