July 29, 2016
The Lion Tailed Macaque or the Wanderoo (Macaca silenus) is a primate endemic to the Western Ghats of South India. The majority of the population is found in and around the forests of Valparai. It is red listed as an Endangered Species by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Since then the government has been taking lots of steps to help increase their population.
Globally the total count is listed to be less than 4500. LTMs, as they are commonly known, are arboreal and spend most of their time in the upper canopy of the forests. They primarily eat indigenous fruits, leaves, buds, insects and small vertebrates in the forests. These once very shy animals have been forced to come down, forced to enter roads because of broken canopies in the forests thereby increasing the risk of road kill. The shrinking habitat has put these rare species at the brink of extinction. Some people by the side of the road feed the LTMs without realizing that they are putting the animals’ lives in danger.
Biologist and Whitley Award winner Ananda Kumar of Nature Conservation Foundation who has been doing extensive research on the Lion Tailed Macaque says that there is a serious threat of these primates being infected by contagious diseases from humans when they come into contact with them. Also littering by the forests pose a great danger to the lives of these primates as they tend to explore and start feeding which again would put their lives in danger.
It was disheartening to see these Knights of the Rainforest scavenging for food leftovers, plastics and liquor bottles thrown around the periphery of the forest patch. Environmentalists hope that the Valparai Municipality and the Forest Department take adequate steps to prevent pollution near these forest fragments and help save Mother Nature.
(The author is Frank Benjamin , environmentalist)