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BROCHURE RACK

New rope bridges helping to save endangered Golden langurs in India

22/11/2012 23:19:46
world/Asia/asia_2012/golden-langur-bridge

Golden langur crossing the rope bridge. Photo credit Jyotish Prasad Das/WTI

Connecting canopies - ropeways to save the endangered langurs - Courtesy of The Wildlife Trust of of India

November 2012: As humans make an ever increasing indelible mark on the work, wildlife is constricted into smaller and small, and more and more fragmented habitats. In a few places, some allowance is now being made for the needs of wildlife when major obstacles are constructed. Wildlife over and under passes are becoming more common on major roads, fish ladders have been around for many years, and ropeways, already in use in Africa and Australia, have now been installed in a small corner of India to allow endangered Golden langurs to cross a large highway.

Golden langurs - endemic to the Indo-Bhutan region, have been using ropeways to safely cross a 500-m stretch of road near Chakrasila Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS). The stretch of road had claimed numerous golden langurs in the last few years, but since the installation of the ropeways in January this 2012, no death due to accidents on the road has been reported.

Golden langur
The golden langur (Trachypithecus geei) is an endangered primate with its distribution restricted between the Manas and Sonkosh rivers, in Assam. Its range includes The Chakrasila Wildlife Sanctuary and parts of Bhutan. It feeds on fruits, leaves, seeds, flowers etc. It is listed under schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

On the northern boundary of Chakrasila, the 500-m road separates the sanctuary from plantation forests used by the resident langurs as an extension of their habitat. The langurs were compelled to descend on to the ground and cross the road risking accidents, attacks by feral dogs or even poaching.

"Golden langurs are essentially arboreal and are not agile on ground. What we know is that there were 10 cases of these magnificent animals killed in this stretch since 2005 as per our records. Who knows how many cases went undetected, or how many other individuals lost to other causes due to this fragmentation," said Dr Bhaskar Choudhury of the International Fund for Animal Welfare - Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI).

As part of their Greater Manas Conservation Project, the Bodoland authorities and IFAW-WTI initiated a Rapid Action Project (RAP) in January this year to help save the langurs. Ropeways of bamboo and ropes were created and strategically placed between canopies of trees in areas regularly used by the langurs to cross over. These ropeways were placed at a height of 60 m from the ground.

"Initially, understandably the langurs hesitated to use these bridges. But now they appear to have been habituated and are frequently seen to use them," said Dr Panjit Basumatary, IFAW-WTI veterinarian who brought the issue to light.

"This shows the extent of fragmentation of natural habitats and the difficulties faced by wildlife. Nothing would be better than natural contiguous canopy, but such interventions are becoming more and more common and the only way out in many of the cases," said primatologist Mayukh Chatterjee.

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