Endangered species : Nilgiri Langur

Two centuries ago, under the British rule, much of the Western Ghats forests were cut down to be replaced by tea plantations. In 1895, the damming of the Periyar river plunged 26 square km of pristine forests into what is now called the Periyar Lake. The 925 km2 of dense hilly forest that form the Periyar Wildlife sanctuary may seem huge, but it is actually a limited territory for the endemic species. Take the nilgiri langurs; about 45 per cent of their diet is comprised of tender leaves of 115 species of flora. They also feed on fruits, flowers, buds, seeds and bark. In fact, they forage upon the largest number of plant species among all primates in the Western Ghats. Hence habitat destruction, even on a small scale, hits them very hard.

So although I see nilgiri langurs (trachypithecus johnnii) everyday in and out of Cardamom County, they are actually an endangered species. Also although it is very shy, the nilgiri langur is habituated. Habituation is key to observing and researching primates in the wild. Primatologists use this method “to accustom primates by frequent repetition or prolonged exposure.” Here around the Periyar Wildlife Reserve we live on small territory with the langurs, so they are from birth habituated to human presence. For better and for worse.  Poaching still poses a threat to their lives. More than forty years after the Wildlife Protection Act, medicines brewed from the flesh, blood and organs of these primates are still for sale on the black market.

With their golden mane and shy behavior these nilgiri langurs seemed to me that day in the middle of Periyar lake, just like two fallen angels.

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