Residents of the secondary city of Huye, especially those living near the University of Rwanda (UR), are complaining about a huge population of monkeys which are marauding the area, destroying property and food crops.
The primates which have lived in the area for many years have multiplied in numbers and have become a menace to farmers in the Mukoni marshland in Tumba Sector, in the Southern Province district of Huye.
Our reporter in the district, Marie Claire Joyeuse spoke to different farmers who say they now have to guard their plantations around the clock to prevent the menacing monkeys from destroying the crops, mainly maize, beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and anything else they grow.
Vérène Nibakure, one of the landowners and a farmer in the area, says that in order for them to be able to harvest something during the season, they have to protect the crops all year-round to prevent the apes from eating their produce.
“When you plant maize, they don’t even wait for it to germinate. They will go into the garden and get the seedlings from the soil. They also like the ones which are just germinating because they are soft,”
“That is not all. Even when the maize grows, they wait for it to be ready and they harvest and eat,” Nibakure said, describing the human-ape food war that has been brought about by the rampaging monkeys of Huye.
Nibakure said she had grown tomatoes but the monkeys timed when they were ready for harvesting, invaded the garden, ate them all and left her with nothing.
Residents of Huye say the monkeys leave nothing in their way. Apart from attacking crops, the apes also eat fruits including guavas, paw paws, mangoes and more. They are also said to go as far as entering kitchens to eat food that is being cooked.
Traders in Mukoni say they also have to stay alert in their shops because any slight distraction means that the apes will steal biscuits, bread, sweets, and other goods.
“Sometimes I set out to give a client goods or airtimes and as soon as I have gone, they grab things such as biscuits, sweats and bread. They eat everything humans eat,” says Emmanuel Ukobizaba, popularly known as Kibonge.
The stubborn apes are also said to harass women more and tend to fear men. Women fruit vendors say when they are going to markets with their merchandise, especially yellow bananas, if they are not covered well the monkeys attack them, forcing them to abandon their goods and they eat them.
The victims say even the gardens have to be guarded by men and boys because the monkeys are not scared away by women or girls.
In the field they are also protected by men and boys, because women do not drive them away.
“I had planted maize, but the monkeys attacked the field and ate them all. I tried to chase them away but they stubbornly refused to go away. I gave up,” said Alice Masengesho, also a farmer in Mukoni swamp.
Residents of Tumba, Taba and Karubanda, who are the most affected by the menacing monkeys, want authorities to come to their rescue and find a solution to the apes, whose population tripled over the years as they reproduced.
Huye residents say some years ago, only a small population of monkeys existed in the forest around the University of Rwanda, commonly known as Arboretum, and they were not commonly seen in town or surrounding neighbourhoods.
However, as time went on, the monkey population increased, forcing some families to venture out into other surrounding forests near the city of Huye, to find food, including in the city centre.
Telesphore Ngoga, the Head of Conservation Division at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), says the government body is working with different districts facing the monkey problem to find an urgent solution. Other districts facing a similar problem include Nyamasheke, Rusizi, Karongi and Rulindo.
“We are working with the district administration to find a way of managing this problem, using conservation methods,”
“We are also looking into how these primates can be added on the list of animals whose damage can be compensated through the guarantee fund,” Ngoga told Kigali Today.
Ngoga said something will be done this year to compensate victims, pointing out that an assessment which was being done to address that was delayed by the New Coronavirus outbreak.