BENGALURU: The mighty Sharavathi river basin in the Western Ghats is considered a significant refuge for the endangered Lion-Tailed Macaques (LTM) in the country. With a recent survey revealing more than 32 groups of LTM in the Honnavar division, this arboreal species, which is on the IUCN Red List of endangered species, is likely to get protection soon.
Forest officials say more than 200 sq kms of reserve forests in the Sharavathi basin will soon become a protected forest. A senior forest official adds, “As per a recent survey, a sizable population of LTM was found in this area. Around 32-35 groups were found in the Honnavar area. Being arboreal animals, they need a thick canopy cover as they spend most of their lives in the upper canopy of tropical moist evergreen forests. The expansion in its habitat will go a long way in protecting these mammals.”
According to research studies done by Honnavalli N Kumara and Anindya Sinha of NIAS, IISc and published in the Flora and Fauna International, 2009, the LTM is endemic to rain forest patches of the Western Ghats. Most of their populations are severely fragmented and declining while the species is locally extinct in some areas. Studies also revealed LTM populations in the Sirsi-Honnavara area, which was possibly the only viable population with more than 750 individuals but were confined to unprotected reserve forests. In fact, the researchers made recommendations for long-term conservation of LTM and for the Sirsi-Honnavara population in particular.Located close to Sagar taluk of Shivamogga district, Sharavathi is contiguous with the Mookambika Sanctuary.
Schedule 1 Species
LTM has been listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List while it is a Schedule 1 species under the Wildlife Protection Act. According to researchers, due to degradation and fragmentation of rain forests, they have vanished from Maharashtra and Goa. Their population is now restricted only to Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, with the majority located in numerous small isolated pockets in the Western Ghats.