The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) is going to kick-start its project to control wild animal population through contraceptives from Uttarakhand with a pilot on Rhesus Macaque monkeys, ministry officials said. After years of deliberations, the MoEF&CC recently approved a Rs 10 crore funding for ‘immunology contraception’ of Rhesus Macaque Monkeys, Asian elephants, nilgais, and wild boars.The project that will be executed along with Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, and National Institute of Immunology, Delhi, also involves research and development of a home-grown vaccine for wildlife birth control.The project is aimed specifically at these four species as their numbers have gone up resulting in crop damages and increased conflict in human habitations, scientists and ministry officials said. A senior ministry official said that for the pilot on monkeys in Uttarakhand and for the initial stages of the birth control project, the vaccines will be imported. The official also added that in the case of elephants, they would have to seek a nod from the Supreme Court, which has stayed contraception of elephants in an ongoing matter.”The numbers of monkeys, nilgai, elephants, and boars have gone up, leading to a conflicted situation. There are several ways to deal with this. Till we are able to control their population, we cannot control conflict. Reproductive control to bring down their numbers is one solution. This is the first time we are doing this in our country and it is a challenge,” said Vinod Mathur, Director, WII. “The project is still at quite a nascent stage and we will first set-up a lab,” he added.Human-wildlife conflict is common across most states in the country. But, in the past few years three of these four species – monkeys, nilgais and boars – have been declared vermins in some state, allowing state governments to cull them.The state governments of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are grappling with the issue of conflict with monkeys and wild boars respectively, and the crop damage they inflict. In Rajasthan and Bihar, nilgais are at the centre of this problem, largely confined to crop depredations.As far as elephants are concerned, there is a significant scale of conflict with humans across the central-eastern landscape and in southern India. Human-elephant conflict led to 423 human deaths in 2016-17 with a bulk of the fatalities concentrated in West Bengal, Assam, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. Also, the government paid Rs 109 crore as compensation to farmers between 2014 to 2015 and 2016 to 2017 for damage caused by elephants.Mathur added that the challenge is manifold as there is no easy way of administering the birth-control vaccine. “What vaccine should we use? Do we administer it surgically or orally? These are some of the issues confronting us.We also need to take into consideration if the animals are pregnant when the vaccine is to be administered.”

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Govt to kick-start wildlife birth control project from Uttarakhand