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Ropeways to save langurs

Kokrajhar, Nov. 8: Ropeways for humans are nothing new, but those for monkeys are not something we hear about all too often.

The endangered golden langurs — endemic to the Indo-Bhutan region, have been using ropeways to safely cross a 500-metre stretch of road near Chakrasila wildlife sanctuary that connects it with a rubber plantation on the other side of the road.

The Bodoland Territorial Council authorities and International Fund for Animal Welfare — Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) initiated a Rapid Action Project in January this year to help save the langurs, as part of the Greater Manas Conservation Project.

Ropeways made 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 metres from the ground.

On the northern boundary of Chakrasila, the 500-metre road separates the sanctuary from the rubber plantation forests used by the resident langurs, as an extension of their habitat.

The langurs were compelled to descend on the ground and cross the road, risking accidents and attacks by feral dogs and poachers.

The killer-stretch between the sanctuary and the rubber plantation had claimed the lives of numerous golden langurs earlier.

“Since the instalment of the ropeways in January this year, no death because of accidents has been reported,” Panjit Basumatary, IFAW-WTI veterinarian who brought the issue to light, said.

“Initially, the langurs hesitated to use these bridges. However, now they appear to be habituated and are frequently seen to use them,” Basumatary said.

Bhaskar Choudhury, also from the IFAW-WTI, said, “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, according to our records. Perhaps many cases went undetected and many were lost to other causes because of this fragmentation.”

Basumatary said though there have been similar interventions in other parts of the world, in India, bamboo bridges have been placed to connect a canopy over roads for use by the lion-tailed macaques in the Nilgiris.

The golden langur (Trachypithecus geei) is an endangered primate with its distribution restricted between river Manas and Sonkosh, on the northern bank of Brahmaputra in Assam, including Chakrasila wildlife sanctuary, and certain parts of Bhutan.

It feeds on fruits, leaves, seeds, flowers and others and is listed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

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