Image Courtesy: Rofik Ahmed Barbhuiya

Guwahati: Road construction and a railway line inside Barail Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam’s Barak Valley are threatening the habitat of Capped Langur.

The Barail wildlife sanctuary is home to seven primates, five of which are vulnerable, meaning their populations have fallen globally, and two are an endangered species (i.e., Hoolock gibbon and Bengal Slow Loris).

Capped langur ( Trachypithecus pileatus) is one of the five vulnerable species and one among the seven primates of Barail wildlife sanctuary (BWS).

Capped Langur (Trachypithecus pileatus) in Barail Wildlife Sanctuary. (Image Courtesy: Rofik Ahmed Barbhuiya)

The BWS is the only protected area in Southern Assam, comprising around 326.24 Sq.Km. Owing to its diverse fauna and vegetation, this sanctuary has drawn the attention of naturalists for a long time.

The BWS is located in the Barak Valley area of southern Assam districts. The area comprises 14 reserve  forests, out of which Barail Reserve forest and North Cachar Reserve forests have been converted into BWS. It is a comparatively new sanctuary, declared in 2004.

study on Attitudes and perceptions of people about the Capped Langur  a preliminary study in Barail Wildlife Sanctuary, India, published in the latest issue of Journal of Threatened Taxa, says there is a regular railway line repairing due to damages of its track especially in monsoon season after introducing the new broad-gauge line in 2015. 

The study was done by researchers from Assam University.

The study documented the perceptions of people (who live within the Barail wildlife sanctuary) as any sustainable conservation strategy must have mutual benefits for both wildlife and humans.

“Also, National Highway 27 is under construction inside the sanctuary and traverses  through the sanctuary,” the study says.

“This aspect deserves sincere attention, and to combat this developmental conflict, construction of safe underground tunnels (where vehicles can move freely without causing any damage to the animals) can be a good proposition,” the study says.

Parthankar Choudhury, Professor at the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Assam University, told EastMojo: “National Highway 27 will obstruct the free movement of animals. Additionally, as reported in other studies carried out from the same lab, animals are frequently crushed by moving vehicles along such highway zones, which are densely populated by wild animals.”

“In many parts of the world, where identical issues are there, box type steel frames are constructed  along the entire length of the road, where traffic can move with no hindrance/casualty to wild animals. Such steps can be taken up here as well,” he said.

A considerable number of landslides take place in these tracts during monsoon between April and September every year.

A questionnaire, semi-structured interviews, and discussions with forest personnel and local experts were used in the current study to gauge participants’ perceptions of current threats and conservation issues.

The findings show that the majority of respondents favoured conservation of Capped Langurs. According to some, the population of the species has decreased, although the specific number of capped langurs in the sanctuary is unclear as no population assessments have been conducted hitherto.

Respondent’s opinion regarding the ‘threats and knowledge’ of Capped Langur differed greatly as 47% of respondents cited habitat loss and fragmentation as a major threat, followed by human exploitation (22%), developmental projects (17%), agricultural expansion (8%), and hunting (8%) and teasing (6%).

“Most people believed that the population of the Capped Langur was declining. Many opined that these langurs were now not as frequently seen as in the past decades. Villagers regularly roam in the buffer areas of the sanctuary, where they had witnessed a deterioration of forest cover due to increase in timber logging, firewood collection, and jhum practices. Thus, the langurs might have shifted to their traditional forage areas in the core of BWS to good quality forests, and hence their reported perceptions,” the study says.

The increasing human population is another major threat to wild animals in the BWS. A rising population entails increasing consumption of food, water, and fuel. This leads to reducing the habitat of wildlife inside the sanctuary.

Choudhury says raising the level of awareness would inspire the villagers towards conservation of all important flora & fauna of the Barail Wildlife Sanctuary.

“In order to provide alternate livelihood options, it could also be very profitable to promote value-added services among the tribal village mass and encourage benefit sharing through skill development to the villagers,” he added.

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