What the destiny of the helpless Hanumans of Keshabpur in Jessore is!!
By Amila Khan
Bangladesh News; The old residents of Keshabpur in Jashore have grown up watching the free movement of black-faced Hanumans since their childhood. Due to trees’ reduction in this locality, these animals are losing their habitat and become helpless. And the lack of food in the bad times of the pandemic has put them in extreme crisis.
Keshabpur Sampriti Mandir Committee President Sundar Saha, over 60 years old, lives in Sahapara. At once, there were plenty of fruit trees in the houses. The Hanumans ate fruits from those trees, and the householders did not mind it. The Hanumans did not bother unnecessarily as the trees’ fruits and the people’s food could meet the demand.
“But nothing is the same as before. The trees in the area have gone down; there have been many buildings around. There is a pandemic now; many people are cutting down the garden or trees from houses and selling them due to lack of money. Where will these Hanumans go then?”
The black-faced Hanumans are now pounding on the houses’ roof, on the tin shaded houses, and people are also annoyed. Hanumans lack both food and shelter.
Sundar Saha said, “The lack of food of the Hanumans was evident in the lockdown. Although there is no lockdown now, the situation has not improved much because people are in need; will they feed themselves, or will they feed the Hanumans?”
The Hanumans crisis in Keshabpur has also come up in a report of the government’s forest department. In the pandemic of coronavirus, the Hanumans are leaving their habitat for a long time due to lack of food and shelter. It is ‘essential’ to take on projects to their existence.
The locals call these primate animals’ black-faced Hanuman’. The scientific name is semnopithecus entellus, and this grouped animal is also known as the ‘Northern Plains Gray Langur.’
The black-faced Hanuman has been placed in the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the ‘List Concern’ category.
Hanuman’s species is more common in India, where it is considered a ‘sacred’ animal by many. However, its number is decreasing day by day in India.
In the Keshabpur area of Jashore, this black-faced Hanuman has been living beside people for hundreds of years. The incident of Hanuman raiding people’s homes due to the food crisis during the lockdown after the pandemic corona’s onset sparked discussion through the media and social media.
Last year earlier, in September 2019, a group of Hanumans besieged Keshabpur police station. They took a stand at the police station with the battered cub, which made headlines in various newspapers at the time.
According to government estimates, there are now about three and a half to four hundred black-faced Hanumans in Keshabpur. This Hanuman can also be seen in the Monirampur area of Jashore, but there are no accurate statistics. They also roam freely in Maheshpur of Jhenaidah and Mujibnagar of Meherpur.
As per the forest department officials, the population of this species in the country is close to thousands. How their lives have changed over time, said Rafiqul Islam Moral, Mayor of Keshabpur Municipality.
He said, “When we were children, we used to see Hanuman did not eat bread, biscuits, or cakes. There were lots of fruit trees; they mainly ate fruits. As the trees gradually declined, the eating habits of the Hanumans changed. Bread, cakes, and biscuits are eaten. Hanumans did not collect food from the crop fields before; they are doing it now.”
Meanwhile, when the lockdown was given due to the Corona pandemic, the people also stopped giving cakes and biscuits.
Rafiqul said, “The shops were closed then; they did not get food from the people. Now it is open again, but people are not able to give food like before.”
Municipal mayor Rafiqul also said that some Hanuman groups had left Keshabpur to other areas due to lack of food.
“Some of my friends in the surrounding districts have said that they see Hanuman in their area like in our area lately. Hanumans are looking for food, looking for shelter. If sanctuaries, gardens, or fruit trees can create officially, then perhaps the Hanumans of this species can save.”
A report of the Forest Department also says that there was a food crisis for the Hanumans during the pandemic due to lack of employment of the locals, decrease in production including trade and commerce, and zero tourist in Keshabpur / Maheshpur. The traditional Hanuman of the region moves to other areas, and they are teasing the locals for food.
According to forest department officials, these Hanumans need Taka 76 lakh (7.6 million) a year for food. The government has given Taka 10 lakh in this financial year. With this money, 36 kg of bananas, 5 kg of peanuts, and 4 kg of bread are being given daily.
In the last financial year, Hanuman’s daily allotment was 35 kg of bananas, 4 kg of nuts, and 4 kg of bread. The food was distributed to the Hanumans in Sadar, Baliadanga, Brahmakati, Ramchandrapur, Durgapur, and Muzgunni areas of Keshabpur through contractors at the initiative of the Forest Department. In it, Hanuman received 35 grams of food per portion.
The report said, “The amount of food provided by the Forest Department is very inadequate compared to the number of Hanumans. As a result, the Hanumans are going elsewhere or dying. At present, they are in dire straits due to a lack of food and safe shelter, which is putting them at risk. It is vital to increase the allocation for Hanuman’s food or to formulate new projects.”
Sajjaduzzaman, Divisional Forest Officer, Jashore, told bdnews24.com, “If we look at the characteristic location of wildlife, we should not give any food from outside. But for unavoidable reasons, we have to feed these Hanumans.
Whenever they cannot collect food naturally, they go to people’s homes and shops for food. Then they are creating clashes with people. We are giving food from that place.”
The Forest Department says Hanuman often dies after being sprayed with pesticides on trees, crushed by cars, and electrocuted. Besides, human cruelty is also the cause of their death.
In 2015, researchers from the Department of Zoology at Dhaka University researched Hanumans in the Keshabpur region. At the time, they also recommended increasing food allocations and taking up projects to build habitats, said Professor Feroz Zaman, one of the researchers.
“When we were working, many locals were saying they should be removed,” he said. “There were conflicts with people. As we said, there is a need for long-term research and Monitoring of these Hanumans. “he added.
“Monitoring is necessary because even if their number increases, it is a problem, even if it decreases, it is a problem. That is why intensive Monitoring is needed. If they decreased will become extinct. Maybe the government has seen our recommendations of the research. That is why they may have made these recommendations.” he continued.
Professor Feroz said, “The concentration of this Hanuman is mainly in Keshabpur area in Bangladesh. What is sometimes seen elsewhere is somehow gone. The natural distribution is here.
They have been here for a long time. That has been going on for hundreds of years.”
The Forest Department report also said that the Keshabpur area was once full of fruit and forest trees and was a haven for Hanuman’s reproductive process and pregnancy. Due to deforestation, their lack of food and shelter has reached an extreme level.
Mollah Rezaul Karim, the forest conservator of the Jashore region, said, “The life characteristics of all animals change. While living in this area, they have somehow made their way of life.
This species is more common in this area of Bangladesh. They have survived because they have adapted to live in the land. Otherwise, it would have disappeared from here.”
“Although a project has been submitted to the Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change, Bangladesh to protect these black-faced Hanumans, but yet to no progress,” said a Forest Department official.
He told the press, “It is a natural process to take a long time to implement a government project. But for the species to survive, it is important to implement this project as soon as possible.”