BENGALURU: A decade ago, the primate endemic to Western Ghats was in peril. Several factors threatened the existence of the lion-tailed macaque, which is a favourite target for hunters due to the medicinal value attributed to its meat.
While destruction of habitat, human activities, fire and road accidents in the Ghats have always caused concern to wildlife enthusiasts, the dwindling population of this species, red-listed by the International Union of Conservation Network, was a big worry too.
However, things have changed over the years with the number of lion-tailed macaques seeing a rise since 2004. The rise has been a modest 34%, according to a scientific study jointly conducted by the state forest department and Coimbatore-based Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), which has hinted at signs of revival of the diurnal rainforest dweller in the region.
Kudremukh now hosts 539 such endangered macaques in 39 groups, making it one of the largest groups in the country, reveals the paper ‘Population status and occupancy of primates with special reference to lion-tailed macaque at Kudremukh wildlife division.’ It was written jointly by Dr P Ramesh Kumar, the then Deputy Conservator of Forests, Kudremukh tiger reserve, Dr H N Kumara, primatologist, SACON and others.
Also, the population figure has been stable for the past couple of years, which raises hope for the future. Much of the credit goes to the forest department, which took constant protective measures ever since the Kudremukh sanctuary was declared a tiger reserve.
“Harvesting of non-timber forest produce has been banned now. Fire mishaps have been the lowest here since 2012 in comparison to other tiger reserves in the state. Road kills too have come down drastically,” says P Ramesh Kumar, who initiated the study along with Kumara.
Following the formation of Kudremukh tiger reserve, the region has 1,270 km of contiguous forest with Mookamibika and Someshwara wildlife sanctuaries. While the reserve is 600 km in area, Mookambika wildlife sanctuary is spread over 370 km. Someshwara sanctuary is scattered over the remaining 300 km area.
Entire forest department staff along with 50 volunteers took part in the study to count macaques. “We created 5sq km grid-based occupancy model of entire forest patch. The staff and volunteers walked along the trails of each and every bit of forest amid the thickets, looking for the primates,” says DCF Ramesh, who is now DCF, Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.