State governments have acted positively to protect it, say agencies

The lion-tailed macaque, one of India’s endangered mascot species, is no longer on ‘The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates’ list, after the international body compiling it determined that the State governments had acted positively to protect it.

The list of 25 primates is put out by a group of specialist agencies — the Primate Specialist Group of the IUCN/Species Survival Commission; the International Primatological Society; Conservation International (CI); and the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation.

It was released here on Monday at a press briefing at the conference of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Announcing the list of endangered primates for 2012-14, Russell A. Mittermeier, chairman of the IUCN/SSC and president of CI, said the Western purple-faced langur in Sri Lanka was still on the list.

Wild primate species are found in 91 countries, and their conservation status is periodically monitored with the Red List criteria by the IUCN. A new assessment is under way to determine how they are faring. It will build on the 2008 assessment — that 303 primates are critically endangered or endangered.

The Western Hoolock gibbon found in northeast India was also removed from the ‘list of 25’ earlier, though “it is still not doing well,” said Sanjay Molur, executive director of the Zoo Outreach Organization and participant in the assessment exercise. The Assam Forest Department is engaged in conservation action, along with NGOs, improving its fortunes.

The habitat of the lion-tailed macaque continues to be fragmented though it is getting positive attention in the Western Ghats. Across India, the growing problem is one of conflicts among langurs, macaques and humans, aggravated by lack of understanding of primate behaviour.

Many Indians feed them sentimentally, which contributes to their aggression as they seek more food; crop raiding is also common. India’s primates are classified as ‘least concern’ on the scale of threat assessment, but “these species are declining,” according to Dr. Molur.

More studies need to be done on Indian monkeys such as the Kashmir gray langur found in the Chamba Valley of Himachal Pradesh. It was rediscovered recently after first being described more than eight decades ago. Half of India’s 43 sub-species of primates are threatened.

The latest top 25 endangered primates comprise a range of ape, monkey and lemur species from Tanzania, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, and South America. Clearing of forests for oil palm cultivation and agriculture, demand for bush meat, and staggering deforestation in Madagascar, removing 90 per cent of endemic lemur habitat, severely threaten long-term prospects for primates.

The CBD is meeting in Hyderabad to look at new ways of reducing the loss of biodiversity and encouraging conservation actions.