Was culling monkeys in the university a necessary evil?

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Monkeys play on the fence at one of the residences in the university. (Photos by Doreen Kajeru)

BY DOREEN KAJERU

In email was sent to the Uganda Christian University (UCU) community, informing them that a monkey culling exercise would carried out, last month.

The university has for a very long time harboured the monkeys, thanks to the many trees on the campus. The animals were often seen jumping onto and out of trees, running through the compounds and gardens, eating fruits and playing with people, especially children.

As the monkey population increased, however, their presence became both a source of joy and amazement for some and a distraction and cause of discomfort for others.

According to the Deputy Vice Chancellor External Relations, Mr David Mugawe, the Facilities and Capital Projects team have for over a year received complaints and concerns from the community regarding the increasing number of monkeys on campus, and their related risks.

“The pointed-out incidences included aggressive tendencies of chasing ladies and children,” he said.

“The monkeys would pluck and bite some fruits and later drop them. The children were seen picking up these fruits and eating them. This poses a risk of transmitting some diseases through sharing fruits with the monkeys.”

He added that while sharing garden food with the monkeys is fine, the animals were destructive to crops, leading to harvest loss.

When the pest control office of Mukono District was consulted, they confirmed that monkeys were one of the vermin under their jurisdiction to control.

“Subsequently, the district vermin control officer visited the campus and studied the behaviour and movement patterns of the monkeys. He recommended that the population of the monkeys should be controlled,” Mr Mugawe said.

Health and safety committee

The health and safety committee of UCU said that they are mindful the safety and wellness of the community.

“The presence of monkeys in such a big population of people caused a threat. It was a necessary exercise for the safety and wellbeing of the community,” said Dr Edward Mukooza, the chairperson of the committee.

“The Uganda Wildlife Authority(UWA)was contacted years ago to fetch the monkeys but all efforts were futile. Due to the fact that there are no predators in the area, their multiplication

effect is uninterrupted. Therefore,thecommittee consulted the pest control office of Mukono District, which classified and confirmed monkeys as pests in the community that had to be controlled.”

Dr Mukooza added that the pest control office has the right technical people qualified to do the job, mindful of the fact that there are people living in the community.

“The monkeys were in their hundreds, a cause for worry! We did not cull them out of irresponsibility or bad intentions but rather out of concern for public health.

“Monkeys have been associated with the spread of zoonotic diseases like rabies. So, we thought it smarter to be proactive rather than reactive,” he said.

He added that two families on campus had reported to the committee about experiences of aggressiveness of monkeys towards children and there was a concern that it could get worse and thus needed action.

“There were over 100 monkeys here. I thus advise the community to keep a distance from them because if any zoonotic epidemic hits us through these animals, many people would be affected.

“As a committee, we continue to follow up the UWA to ensure that the monkeys are transferred because they are not domestic animals and may harm the community,” he concluded.