: Nilgiri langurs ( Trachypithecus johnii ) continue to be hunted for the preparation of crude medicines despite the implementation of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Prior to the Act coming into force, these primates were ruthlessly hunted to the brim of extinction.
According to a National Studbook on Nilgiri langurs published in May this year by the Wildlife Institute of India and the Central Zoo Authority, poaching continues to be a main threat to Nilgiri langurs. The studbook says the primates were being hunted mainly for their pelt, blood, flesh and organs to produce crude medicines and even so-called aphrodisiacs.
Before the Act came into force, such medicines were freely available with traditional medicine practitioners in Kerala and the products were even advertised. ‘Karingkorangu Rasayanam' was one of the leading products available then. Later the Kerala Forest Department launched a publicity campaign to save the Nilgiri langurs.
Though the campaign produced desirable results, the langurs are still not free from poaching; medicines brewed from the flesh, blood and organs of these primates are available illicitly and are said to be very costly. Habitat destruction, which includes construction of hydroelectric projects, is another threat to the primates, according to the studbook.
The glossy black Nilgiri langurs with a reddish-brown crown are colobines endemic to the southern part of the Western Ghats from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu through Kerala up to the Coorg Hills in Karnataka. The studbook, authored by Manjari Malviya, Anupam Srivastav, Parag Nigam and P.C. Tyagi, says the present Nilgiri langur population in the wild can touch 15,000. They find a place in the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature that includes vulnerable animals.
About 45 per cent of their diet comprises tender leaves of 115 species of flora, out of which 58 species are trees. They also feed on fruits, flowers, buds, seeds and bark. In fact, they eat up the largest number of plant species among all primates in the Western Ghats. Hence, habitat destruction even on a small scale would hit them very hard.