The only golden langur of Umananda is undergoing severe depression and behavioral changes. Credit: EastMojo Image

Guwahati: At the world’s smallest riverine island Umananda, a lone golden langur is fighting for survival. The famous tourist spot located on the mighty River Brahmaputra visited for both leisure and religious purposes is home to the endangered species of ‘Golden Langur’ (Trachypithecus Geei).

However, the population of this critically endangered species is fast dwindling; from 11, they have come down to merely five due to habitat destruction and breeding issues.

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When an accident killed one of the five golden langurs of the island, the Assam state forest department decided to take charge of the situation and relocated three of the remaining four primates to the Assam State Zoo. The fourth langur was too quick to be caught.

Consequently, the only golden langur of Umananda is undergoing severe depression and behavioural changes.

Years ago, a pair of golden langur was donated to the temple by a Nepali couple. Temple priest Bipin Sharma, who has been working at the temple for the past 15 years, said that during the initial days, there were more females langurs here, and one of them was taken by the Assam State zoo authorities, but they haven’t returned it yet.

The priest said that said a few of the langurs died due to falling off the trees and few due to injuries. The langurs were a major tourist attraction of the temple and visitors used to bring them fruits, Sharma added.

Speaking with EastMojo, state zoo divisional forest officer Tejas Mariswamy said when the first langur was brought from the temple in 2012, he wasn’t there. But he said, as far as he knows, “we got a rescue call from one of the temple authorities itself, as there was one langur severely injured and was not well. People called us and our team was sent to rescue the animal”. He added that one of the female langurs captured “is still in our enclosure and we have paired her with one of the male langurs here and are doing excellent.”

Mariswamy said that one of the reasons why the lone langur could not be rescued was due to opposition from the local people. Further, he said that the local vendors were feeding him cakes and biscuits which have taken a toll on his health.

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“In future, if we identify fit for the golden langur to survive, we will release them back in the wild. By that time we also need to make the area fit for its release,” the zoo official further said.

The riverine island Umananda attracts a large number of visitors to its historic Shiva Temple built in 1694 AD by the Ahom rulers. Named as Peacock Island by the British, Umananda can be accessed from Guwahati and North Guwahati by ferries, which provide a unique opportunity to see this endangered species.

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