Playful, trusting strangers, not in the least timid or violent… Ammu may not be your average ‘wild' Lion-tailed Macaque (LTM), but for the city zoo, she may just be what the doctor ordered for its Macaque breeding programme.
The year-and-half-old Lion-tailed Macaque was brought by road from Muthanga where it was captured by the Forest Department about a month ago.
Ammu's new home has been designated by the Central Zoo Authority as a macaque breeding centre.
One thing about Ammu struck the team led by vet Joe Jacob Sebastian that went to bring her over; there was no ‘monkey business' about this Macaque.
“As soon as we met, she scampered over to me. Throughout the tiring journey from Muthanga, she never got ill-tempered. This led us to conclude that though she is seemingly wild, the macaque may actually have been hand-reared by someone,” Dr. Sebastian said.
Lion-tailed Macaques are not normally seen in Wayanad.
So, when Forest officials got word that a macaque was sighted at Muthanga, they went there expecting to see a Nilgiri Langur, said Dr. Sebastian. One look at Ammu and the officials realised the value of their ‘catch.' Lion-tailed Macaques are found only in the Western Ghats and there are less than 3,000 of them in the wild. The only place Ammu could be housed was at the Thiruvananthapuram zoo.
With her arrival, the zoo has six female macaques and an equal number of males. “Now only one female is breeding. Another did give birth twice but they were stillbirths. The real value of Ammu is that when she is about three years, she may start breeding. In her, we now have a much-needed gene pool diversification,” Dr. Sebastian pointed out.
In anticipation of this, a micro chip was implanted in the female macaque soon after her arrival at the zoo. This will help zoo officials keep a tab on her progeny and her mates.
Ammu has been placed on a mandatory 14-day quarantine and would be gradually introduced to the resident macaques; a process that may take many months.