Thanks to Daily Yomiuri Online for this article.
Dogs to foil pilfering primates
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Aichi prefectural government has decided to train dogs to protect rice and other agricultural products from thieving monkeys in mountainous areas.
Starting from fiscal 2008, which starts in April, the prefectural government will select two areas to which three trained dogs will be deployed. It has earmarked 346 million yen in the new annual budget for the project, including costs to have the dogs trained in the private sector.
In fiscal 2006, agricultural damage caused by wild animals in the prefecture came to 215 million yen. This figure was three times higher than a year earlier and about double the average in the 2001-2005 period. Although some observers have pointed out a possible connection with climate change, the reason behind such increases are unclear.
The situation prompted the prefectural government to deploy trained dogs to protect produce after learning that similar measures have proved effective in dispersing monkeys in Akita Prefecture and other prefectures.
While other prefectures have tended to purchase dogs from pet shops, Aichi Prefecture will train abandoned dogs that otherwise would be put down. Several hundred abandoned dogs are taken to the Aichi prefectural animal protection center and its three branches each year, most of which are killed. Prefectural government officials have said they want to save some of these dogs, despite the fact the numbers involved would be quite small.
This canine-centered approach is part of the prefectural government’s efforts to rectify economic disparity among its regions–a fiscal imbalance that continues to widen even though its fiscal 2008 tax revenue is projected to reach an all-time high thanks to thriving manufacturing.
In the Tonosu district of Okazaki in the prefecture, farmer Shinogi Shibata, 73, said, “We usually harvest 17 bales of rice [about 1,020 kilograms] a year, for instance, in one field. Last year, monkeys consumed an amount equivalent to almost two bales [about 120 kilograms].”
In the district, which is surrounded by forests, 25 of the 26 households grow rice, wheat and soybeans, among other types of crops.
Shibata and other farmers complain about a notable increase in damage to their produce over the past 10 years. They believe three or four different groups of monkeys, each comprising 30 to 50 individuals, live in the forests.
Rice paddies have been enclosed by electrified fences erected with financial assistance from the local agricultural cooperative and the municipal government.
The fences can effectively thwart deer and boars, but monkeys are clever enough to sneak through the gaps between the ground and the lowest wire, or climb the fence posts while carefully avoiding the charged parts of the fence. “Apart from the agricultural damage, we worry about letting small children go out alone, as the monkeys might prove dangerous to them,” Shibata said.
In the Ohata district of Okazaki, a 66-year-old farmer said the number of monkeys stealing vegetables from his garden had been decreasing since he started keeping a Shiba dog as his pet last year. Up until two years ago, the vast majority of his produce was being pilfered by the plundering primates. “My pet dog is doing a good job,” he said, suggesting trained dogs will be even more effective.