The government of the southern Indian state of Kerala may start a program to train monkeys to pick coconuts
Apparently, the Kerala Coconut Development Board (CDB) is concerned by the unwillingness of increasing numbers of young men to engage in such dangerous work for such low pay. Local farmers, facing a shortage of coconut tree-climbers, are now reluctant to grow coconuts, a staple of Kerala’s culture and economy.
The Indian newspaper Deccan Chronicle noted that monkeys already do this kind of work in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.
Kerala’s agriculture deputy director K. R. Vijayakumar and principal agriculture officer V.K. Raju have said that should the proposal pass, they will establish a “monkey training center” and also secure the assistance of officials in Indonesia or Thailand who have already used monkeys to pick coconuts.
“It is like the training that’s given to wild elephants for picking logs,” Vijayakumar told the Chronicle.
He added that a trained monkey can climb up to 500 coconut trees per day, ten times the capacity of a human being.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper of Britain reported that Kerala’s coconut industry is in steep decline.
The Hindu Business Line reported last November that Kerala has more than 15-million coconut trees, requiring a minimum of 30,000 climbers to pick them.
Coconuts are integral both to Kerala’s economy and culture. According to Keralites.co.uk, “coconut trees are essential to the traditional lifestyle and livelihood of the people of Kerala… [Coconut trees are] also known as Kera Tree and thus the land of Kera Tree is called Kerala.”