Saturday, April 18, 2009

Living with the Spectacle monkey

Even monkeys sport spectacle and they are very special type of primate . It seems funny, but they happen to be the Spectacle Langur of Tripura. Commonly known as chasma Bandar and are found only in Tripura and adjoining parts of Assam and Mizoram.

These small, agile langurs were named as Spectacle monkey because of white rings encircling their eyes giving an appearance of wiring spectacles.

Last winter I stayed for about a fort night in Sipahijala sanctuary, nuzzled in India’s North Eastern state of Tripura, about only 22 K.M from the capital Agartala.

Shivering in the morning, during my hour long morning walk, the ups and downs of the sanctuary, I used to see the monkeys eating rubber leaves.

They live on tree tops and hardly come on the ground- even for drinking water. And whenever any one approaches, they just take flight to dense forest. It is really a typical monkey business, indeed.

Scientists call them Phayre's Langur and local people also call them ‘Dhudhmukhi bandar' because of a pale white patch surrounding their mouth.

Though male and female all wear "specs", they do not like the same "frame", of course. While white and round patch frame around the eyes is the distinguishing mark for males and triangular or cone shaped markings identify the langurs as female.

However, like human being, the specs are absent among the kids.

Like other langurs they also have long tails, spend most of their times in tree tops and eat leaf as staple food compared to the other monkeys.

The tail is blacker at the base but lighter distally. The ventral surface is distinctly white or whitish yellow.

Adult females are slightly larger than their male counterparts. They are lean and thin having a height of about two feet. The weight of the adults varies between six to nine KGs.

The monkeys always live in a group of 8-22, prefer to hang on trees and come down to earth only when they need to negotiate with tree canopy, and well of course, if they want to have a 'walk'.

Researchers say, three South East Asian sub species of T. phayrei are distributed in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

According to Dr Atul K Gupta, IFS, who has done extensive research on the primates here and in the country Phayer's langurs are confined to three north eastern states Tripura, adjoining Assam and Mizoram only, the largest population being in Tripura.

It is likely that Phayer's langurs might have migrated to Cachar in Assam and Dampa wild life sanctuary in Mizoram from Tripura only in recent past.

These areas are close to Tripura and connected by dense ever green forest.
Since of late the forest cover is being lost and canopy contiguity is disrupted the migration seems to have also stopped.

Despite having the similar habitat, presence of these primates were not reported from any where in the region which does not have any land connection with the state.

This fact only strengthens the idea that these bespectacled langurs were orginally from Tripura.
Even in Tripura though the Chashma Bandar is reported from all over the state, they are mainly found in South district than the other three --north, west and Dhalai.

Dr Gupta during his survey of the primates in 1989 found 899 Phayer's langurs from 56 groups in the state.

If the figures of Siphajiala and Gumti wild life sanctuaries are included then the total number of these primates would be more than 1000.

The groups of Phayer's langurs with 8 to 22 members each having their own home range, seem to be very male dominant family. Usually a group comprises of one adult male, 3 to 6 adult females and sub adults, juveniles and infants.

Mother monkey gives birth to her golden brown baby between November and March and she devotes almost all the day for rearing the baby.

The father prefers to either jumping or yawing away his day on tree top and , if alarmed, makes calls sounding similar to 'kha kha kha' . Experts say : these primates have four different types of calls expressing different meanings in their social life.

Although the Phayer's langurs have their definite home range they do not mind if other sympatric species like capped langur, rhesus macaque, slow lorris or hoolock gibbon come to their homes.

Study on these langurs find they mainly feed on leaves of koroi, Harish, acacia and Krishnachura.

to be Continued ..........................

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

interesting. hope u won't take a long time to put the rest of the story.