Primates thrive in Gibbon Sanctuary Sivasish thakur MARIANI, Sept 2 The Hollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary which shelters an incredible seven species of primates the highest in any protected area of the country is witnessing an increase in its simian populations. The latest census conducted in March, 2009 revealed the presence of 95 hoolock gibbons (25 families and five solitary individuals) the flagship species and Indias only ape, 46 Assamese macaques (one troop) 233 stump-tailed macaques (two troops), 75 pig-tailed macaques (four troops), 154 capped langurs (13 troops), and 174 rhesus macaques (four troops) besides another 322 (five troops) in fringe localities. While census for the extremely elusive and nocturnal slow loris could not be done, forest officials and NGO activists put the conservative estimate at 25.
The significance of the tiny 20.98-sq km sanctuary should be evident from the fact that the census for primates in Jorhat district (under Jorhat forest division) did not yield the presence of any primate except rhesus macaque outside the Gibbon sanctuary.
Notwithstanding the thriving number of primates, the sanctuary is grappling with some persisting problems which the government authorities would do well to address at the earliest. A railway track bisecting the forest into two parts has effectively confined some hoolock gibbon families to a narrow stretch.
Gibbons being tree-dwellers do not come down to the ground and the railway track has made the larger tract of the jungle out of reach for those confined to the small strip. This is a serious situation and problems like inbreeding are palpable, primatologist Dilip Chetry, who has been engaged in conservation in the sanctuary for years, said.
Erecting a bridge over the railway track is perhaps the only viable option that can facilitate to and fro movement of the gibbons.
We have taken up the matter with the Railways but so far nothing has materialised, Chetry said. An official of the sanctuary said that the Forest Department too was pursuing the matter with the Railway authorities and stressed that the State Government should take up the issue at the highest level for ensuring a secure future of the gibbon.
Human settlements and tea gardens surrounding the sanctuary are also posing some problems for the wildlife and their habitat.
Fuel, wood collection inside the sanctuary has been an irritant and there have also been instances of charcoal making. Flow of pesticide-laced water from the bordering tea estates could also create long-term damage to the flora and fauna, Chetry said.