Melanism in Rhesus Macaque from Manas, both reports are from Assam

With a rhino population of more than 50, a good population of tigers, a serow spotted for the first time, it seems the Manas National Park is becoming one of India’s most successful conservation stories.

And now, a rare phenomenon of melanism has been reported in Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta) from the Manas National Park.

Melanism can be termed as the excessive production of a dark-coloured pigment known as melanin in an individual’s skin, plumage or fur, which makes it distinct from the entire population.

It is neither dangerous for the animal nor the species, however, it is a rare phenomenon, hence the excitement among conservationists.

This was reported by Sanatan Deka, manager and head of the Greater Manas Project of Wildlife Trust of India and Asish Immanuel Baglary, assistant field officer of Centre for Bear Rehabilitation & Conservation, Pakke Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh. Baglary had previously worked at the Manas National Park.

The phenomenon was sighted during an anti-snare walk in the first addition of Manas national park. It may be mentioned that the first addition to the Manas National Park was declared in 2016.

Previously, there were no records of melanism in Rhesus Macaque. 

Interestingly, the first case of melanistic Rhesus Macaque in India was reported in 2021 by a researcher from the Lakhimpur district of Assam. 

“This is the second case from India…both cases of melanism have been reported from Assam. This phenomenon can be associated with climatic, environmental variables, hence, genetic studies are necessary to ascertain a conclusion,” Baglary told EastMojo.

The sighting was on March 18 of this year when both encountered a troop of 17 individuals of Rhesus Macaque. They encountered a dark-coloured (blackish) adult female with a juvenile near Jiapagla river bed. The young juvenile had the normal coat colour. The dorsal part of the individual’s body was black with a gradient of silky golden yellow and a blackish tail.

The authors then concluded that the individual had melanism and photographed it for consideration.

“We often regard these common rhesus monkeys as pests, but meticulous observation of all wildlife is necessary,” Baglary said.

Experts say close observation and genetic analysis of the melanistic individual might yield more information about this phenomenon.

Rhesus Macaque is a primate widely distributed across South Asia, Southeast Asia and China. The species is protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act. Due to uncontrolled population growth and nuisance activities, it is often regarded as pests by the public.

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