The highly-endangered golden langurs of Assam will get a new home, thanks to IAS officer Adil Khan.
Forest authorities will conduct a census of the animals at Kakoijana Reserve Forest in Lower Assam’s Bongaigaon district as a prelude to declaring it a wildlife sanctuary.
A project for the primate species was initiated by the IAS officer under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
This is the country’s only project under MGNREGA where the beneficiaries are not just humans but also the golden langurs.
The creation of the sanctuary will give the golden langurs a new home after the one at Chakrashila Wildlife Sanctuary. At Kakoijana, the animal is facing habitat destruction and scarcity of food.
Khan hit upon the idea while on a trip to Bongaigaon after taking over as its Deputy Commissioner. He is now the state’s Commissioner of Transport Department.
Last of Golden survivors
“When I joined, I tried to find out what was special about the place. One day, I chanced to visit Kakoijana Reserve Forest. People told me about the golden langurs. Their last 500 surviving members are found in this part of the world,” he said.
The langurs come to the plains from the hills in search of food and often get killed due to electrocution or by coming under the wheels of speeding vehicles. Sometimes, they are killed by stray dogs and sometimes, poached.
“We thought if we can make food available for them within the forest, they will not venture out. A scheme was sanctioned under MGNREGA. The forest department supplied saplings suited to food habits of the langurs,” Khan explained.
All round conservation
“It’s a Rs 27 lakh multi-dimensional project,” said Khan. Work such as fencing and plantation was done with MGNREGA wages. Soon, the rural development department, local gram panchayat, tribal community, forest department and district administration converged. On World Environment Day on June 5 last year, the plantation work started. “The saplings survived as the locals looked after them,” he said.
Planting for a future
“Once the census is conducted, we will prepare the management plan and then, formally submit a proposal to the government to declare it a wildlife sanctuary,” said Divisional Forest Officer Abdel Salam Arief.
Wildlife activist Soumydeep Datta said,“An NGO, ATMA, had first demanded that the forest be made a wildlife sanctuary. We welcome the government’s move but we feel the plantation could be detrimental to golden langurs if the right kind of trees were not planted,” he said.
Promise of a future
Divisional Forest Officer Abdel Salam Arief said the villagers are friendly and they respect the golden langurs as they are believed to have come from the family of Hanuman.
“Once it is upgraded to a wildlife sanctuary, there will be infrastructure development. The locals can earn a livelihood,” he added.
Hafijur Rahman, a local, agreed that it would open up employment avenues. “Shops, guest houses will come up. It will help the local youth. The government will set up a veterinary hospital in the wildlife sanctuary. We can take our cattle there for treatment,” he added.