SUBHADEEP SANTRA :If you ever visit the silent valley National park in Kerala do not forget to peep at the branches of the tall evergreen trees. You might find an older version of the Indian monkey glazing at you with fun filled eyes. If you see a black face with a silver white mane then do observe whether the tail has a clump at the end resembling that of a lion. In case you do, be happy. You are lucky to have spotted one of the rare animals found in India alone, the lion tailed macaque(LTM).
Reported to be found only in the forest areas of south-west India of Western Ghats, the lion tailed macaque is one of the 23 species of macaque found throughout world.The largest concentration of LTMs are said to be found in the silent valley National park.Fond of climbing tree tops and spending majority of their lifetime on higher canopy, feeding both on insects and fruits found in rainforests, these LTMs prefer moist evergreen forest.
The government initiated conservation efforts after Silent Valley region was declared a national park in 1985 following the ‘save silent valley’ movement which started in 1973.Though state government efforts have withdrawn LTMs from the top 25 list of threatened species in the year 2012, there is little to rejoice until LTMs relinquishes the threatened list completely.
Enlisted as ‘Endangered’ in the Red list of International Union for conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) these LTMs are one of the 23 known species of macaques found throughout the world.Decreasing population among the LTMs is a serious cause for concern.Govt funded research have detected the presence of 9 types of gastrointestinal parasites in LTMs. 6 of them are found to be affecting LTMs near human settlements.
Commercial plantation of tea and coffee has resulted in canopy reduction. Coffee planters clear patches of forest vegetation to allow sun rays to intrude into the unguarded area of the forest. Sun rays enhance the productivity of the coffee plants at the risk of loss of canopy.Loss of canopy forces macaques to live on grounds increasing chances of parasitic attack.Another peculiar observation makes it a rare species.
A research conducted in nelliyampathy forest reserve, Kerala a few years ago revealed homosexual behaviour among a few adult and Juvenile males.Similar female behaviours were also noticed in the macaque societies in the other parts of the world.Though there is still no proof of large prevalence of the same sex behaviour it is yet a concern as it may restrict population growth among LTMs.
Nonetheless, government efforts to avoid deforestation in rainforests and preservation of canopy may help increase the population of this rare species in the long run.