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. Continue reading
This afternoon, just after lunchtime, the staff and guests of Cardamom County were greeted with a thrilling surprise: the unannounced arrival of three Nilgiri Langur, the haunting, strong and motile black monkey endemic to the Western Ghats. I ran into Gourvjit and the resort’s driver, Baburaj, watching from the parking lot as they jumped from tree to tree, and as we lingered they took the bold step of running and leaping from roof to roof through the resort– over the lobby, over the open-air bar, past porches and rooms and into the back of the property, where they perched in a jack fruit tree. I followed after them, was hissed at by one, and managed to catch this video of another from an appropriate distance.
The thick, shiny black of its fur and the shock of bronze colored hair that haloes its head lend the Nilgiri langur a mysterious and dramatic appearance, especially when bounding through the otherwise calm resort grounds (though I couldn’t help but, at times, think that they looked as if they were each wearing Donald Trump’s tupee). It is by habit a shy, tree-dwelling monkey (in stark comparison to the brazen macaque) and markedly wary of human interaction. Nilgiri langur have been hunted in this area for their flesh, which is considered to have medicinal properties, and for their fur, which is used to cover drums. Baburaj said they have not been on property for two years and that this threesome was likely a reconnaissance team of sorts, so it seems we’re likely not to run into them again outside of the Reserve. But to get so close to them, to watch them interact and find their way in this environment, which is wholly different from their usual station 60m up in the thick of the Periyar, was a truly rare experience. (And they scare the macaque away to boot!)