Lion-tailed macaque gives birth at Vandalur zoo; mother, infant well

An endangered lion-tailed macaque (LTM) gave birth to a healthy young macaque on Thursday, in the first successful off-site captive breeding birth at Vandalur zoo.

Off-site captive breeding programmes are mostly used for endangered species, and only done at select zoos across the country, an official said. The programme involves taking young, healthy animals deep into the forest and building an enclosure for them there, at a significant distance away from the portion of the zoo that visitors are allowed into.

Both the mother and the young macaque are doing well, and are still in their enclosure, with zoo vets monitoring their health round-the-clock.

Officials said the young macaque weighs 1 kg. It will take at least a month to determine its gender. With the newborn, the zoo now has a total of 23 macaques including 12 females.

“Vandalur zoo is the coordinating centre for the breeding of LTMs in the country, and accounts for 40 per cent of the total LTM population in the country’s zoos,” said an official.  

Classified as the most threatened primate under the Indian Wildlife Act, 1972, LTMs are endemic to the Western Ghats and found in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Of 198 zoos in the country, Mysore, Thiruvananthapuram and Vandalur zoos are home to LTMs.

The gestation period of LTMs is around six months, and the young are nursed for a year. Their life expectancy in the wild is around 20 years; but is up to 35 years in captivity.   

The concept of off-site breeding programmes was introduced by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) a few years ago. Young and healthy members of an endangered species in captivity are isolated from the rest, and taken to an enclosure surrounded by a moat, deep into the forest, where they are left for a certain period of time.

Two years ago, the CZA made Vandalur zoo the coordinating zoo for three endangered species — LTMs, the Nilgiri langur and the Nilgiri tahr.

Last year, two enclosures, each measuring 700 sq. ft., were built for six LTMs. In each enclosure, one male and two females macaques were placed. The macaques were selected based on lineage, compatibility and general maturity.

The well-ventilated enclosures were provided with poles, ropes, ladders and swings for the animals to enjoy their stay. Zoo officials also planted saplings of jackfruit, guava and cherries for food, similar to what is found in the LTMs’ natural environment.

This model, zoo officials said, is to help the captive animals adapt to the wild, as the programme is aimed at eventually relocating selected macaques into the Western Ghats to help increase their population.

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