By Narendra Kaushik | Kokrajhar
This is one langur no old world monkey is scared of.
The rare Golden Langur, found only along the Indo-Bhutan border and parts of Western Assam, rather lives in perfect harmony with the regular monkey also known as rhesus macaque in scientific terms.
In fact, the golden haired, cat-eyed langur, which mythology aligns with monkey-king Sugriva of Ramayana, is hardly in confrontation with any of the wildlife species found either in Chakrashilla wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) or on the foothills of black mountains on the Indo-Bhutan border.
The gentle and peaceful Golden Langur is quite the opposite of the black-faced Grey-haired Langur which is frequently employed to deal with monkey menace in Delhi and other places. Also unlike its grey sibling, it is slightly smaller in size.
“It’s the gentlest of simians and minds its own business,”
claims Nipun Kolita, a worker in a rubber plant removing barks of the trees to collect sticky white fluid, unmindful of a group of Golden Langurs playing around him.
Harem practice prevalent
The Golden Langur is a social animal and lives in groups led by the most powerful male in the group. Initially, there are fights for supremacy but once it is established as to who the most powerful male is then the loser quietly leaves the group.
“It’s like elephants. The loser never returns to the group,”
informs Range Officer Vimal Narzary.
Each primate group may consist of 4 to 22 langurs. For a difference, here the female species outnumber the males making polygamy name of the game.
The Golden Langur sustains on leaves, bark, fruits, insects and seeds of plants. In the Chakrashilla Sanctuary, it mainly survives on unripe leaves and dry seed of rubber plants. One can see it swinging on the edge of the branches of the rubber trees to pluck the budding leaves.
Its long tail (sometimes up to 50 centimetres) helps it maintain balance when it hops from one branch to another.
The average life span of the Golden Langur, according to M C Brahma, Divisional Forest Officer in Kokrajhar Wildlife Division, is 30 years.
The weight of a grown up male is around 10.8 kg while an adult female generally weighs at least two kg less than it. It attains sexual maturity at an age between five to seven years. The female attains puberty at around four.
The animal was first spotted in 1953 by a naturalist called E P Gee and thus is also referred to as Gee Golden Langur.
In recent years, its population has registered an increase. Brahma claims there are over 6000 Golden Langurs in Western Assam. He puts their number at 4000 in Bodoland Territory Council (BTC) area.
In the Chakrashilla Sanctuary, the last count done in 2008 put their number at 501. Add up the number of Golden Langurs residing on foothills of mountains on Indo-Bhutan border and the number almost goes up 10,000.
There have been several projects to conserve the rare species. First, the primate has been declared endangered under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Since many of the animals in Nayakgaon (a village on the outskirts of Kokrajhar) were getting killed while crossing a road on foot, the conservationists in January 2012 built a canopy bridge over the road.
Bodoland University, based in Kokrajhar, has taken an initiative for test-tube production of the langur. Assam State Zoo-cum-botanical garden on the other hand is reportedly planning to build a conservation-breeding centre for the Golden Langurs on its premises.
Descendent of monkey-king Sugriva
People living near the Golden Langur habitats particularly the tribals consider the animal sacred because of its lineage with monkey-king Sugriva and Hanuman.
Even their religious rituals are performed around the wildlife and the langur. Besides the langur, the Chakrashilla Wildlife Sanctuary houses giant squirrel, hoary bellied squirrel, flying squirrel, barking deer, leopard, jungle cat, fishing cat and pythons.