Posts Tagged 'primates'

Vanishing Species: Hanuman Langur

Sunday article by Mohan Pai
 

Hello friends,

Good morning. This sunday’s article is about the Hanuman langur, a very bold and rowdy primate.
Hanuman langur is associated with Lord Hanuman of Ramayana and is revered by the Hindus, it is seldom molested and they have lost all fear of man. It’s also known as the temple monkey. Considered as a single species earlier, 7 distinct subspecies are now recognised in India. Hanuman langur is widely distributed over the subcontinent.
 
Ms Sucheta Chatterjee (facebook) has provided link to a very lucid essay by Steven Weinberg: http://www.physlink.com/Education/essay_weinberg.cfm
Very best wishes,
Mohan Pai.
 

Hanuman Langur
Semnopithecus
 
 
One of the rowdiest primates, even the Indian Parliament is not out of bounds for them.
 
Hanuman Langur is believed to be one of the Old World monkeys, belonging to the Semnopithecus Genus. They comprise of 15 subspecies and are terrestrial in nature. Earlier, hanuman langurs were believed to comprise of a single species. However, now they are recognized as seven distinct species. Hanuman langur is also known by the name of Gray Langur, Entellus Langur and Common Indian Langur. Venerated by the Hindus and seldom molested, they have lost all fear of man.
This is the long-limbed, long-tailed, black-faced monkey, seen as much about towns and villages as in forests of India. Animals from the Himalayas are more heavily whiskered and coated, their pale almost white heads, standing out in sharp contrast to the darker colour of the body. The contrast is much less apparent in peninsular animals. Langurs living in the rain-swept hill regions of the Western Ghats are generally darker then those from the drier eastern zone.
 

Species list
Nepal Gray Langur, Semnopithecus schistaceus
Kashmir Gray Langur, Semnopithecus ajax
Terai Gray Langur, Semnopithecus hector
Northern Plains Gray Langur, Semnopithecus entellus
Black-footed Gray Langur, Semnopithecus hypoleucos
Southern Plains Gray Langur, Semnopithecus dussumieri
Tufted Gray Langur, Semnopithecus priam
 


In religion and mythology
Hindus revere the Hanuman langur as associated with Lord Hanuman, an ardent and loyal devotee of Shri Rama an incarnations of Lord Vishnu. An army of monkeys or the vanara sena under the leadership of Hanuman was instrumental in the defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama. Other notable vanaras who feature in the epic Ramayana are Sugriva , Vali and Angada.The Hanuman langur has a black face because according to the mythology, Hanuman burnt his hands and face while trying to rescue Sita. The langurs often live in and around Hindu temples, where they are fed by devotees. The Jakhu Hanuman temple in Shimla is a famous example. It is often referred to as the ‘monkey temple’ because of the countless monkeys it houses.
 
Bold & rowdy
This is the one of the rowdiest relatives of mankind, at least in India. Hanuman langurs are experts at depriving you of your food. and those living near temples are particularly adept at this art. Not just temples, even the Indian Parliament is not out of bounds for them. For the past few years, the parliament has been losing a ‘few important files’, thanks to these simian creatures that react quite adversely if left unfed during the lunch hour. But when threatened, they retreat immediately.
 
Physical traits
The fur of the gray langur of India may be gray, dark brown or even golden in color. The face is black and the size varies from one subspecies to another. Male langurs grow to a length of 51 cm to 78 cm and weigh about 18 kg. The female langurs are smaller, with a length of 40 cm to 68 cm and weight of about 11 kg. The length of the tail is between 69 cm and 101 cm.
Diet
Common Indian langurs survive on a diet comprising of leaves, fruit, buds and flowers. The exact diet, however, changes from season to season. During winters, they survive on a diet of mature leaves. In summer season, they mainly survive on fruits. Insects, tree bark and gum also supplement their diet. Hanuman langurs can easily digest seeds with high levels of the toxins and can eat even soil and stones.
Natural habitat
Hanuman langurs are found inhabiting tropical, dry thorn scrub, pine and alpine forest as well as urban areas of the Indian subcontinent. They spent a major portion of their time on the ground, with the exception of their sleeping time. Presently, common langurs are found in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma.
Behaviour
Gray langur of India can usually be found living in large groups, dominated by a male langur. The membership of the group may be anywhere between 11 and 60. However, they hold the dominating position for a very short period only, which may stretch upto 18 months. Whenever a new male takes over the group, all the infants of the previous alpha male are killed. Entellus Langurs of India may form bachelor groups also.
Mating Behavior
Female langurs attain maturity at 3 to 4 years of age, while males achieve the same in 4 to 5 years. However, they start mating in the 6th or 7th year only. The gestation period is 190 to 210 days, after which a single infant is born. Only in very rare cases does a female langur give birth to two infants. Where there are a number of males in a group, only the high-ranking males can mate with any female. The other males get a chance to mate only if they manage to sneak by the high-ranking males.
 
The inveterate enemy of the Langur is the panther. The sight of one, or of a tiger that rouses suspicion produces the guttural alarm note which sends the whole troop bolting. Quite distinct is the joyous ’whoop’ emitted when bounding from tree to tree or otherwise contentedly occupied. An interesting relationship has been observed between herds of Chital deer and troops of the Northern Plains Gray Langur. Chital apparently benefit from the langur’s good eyesight and ability to post a lookout in a treetop, helping to raise the alarm when a predator approaches. For the langur’s part, the Chital’s superior sense of smell would seem to assist in early predator warning, and it is common to see langurs foraging on the ground in the presence of Chital. The Chital also benefit from fruits dropped by the langurs from trees such as Terminalia bellerica. Alarm calls of either species can be indicative of the presence of a predator such as the Bengal Tiger.
 
Status
Common Indian langur is listed in the lower risk category by the IUCN

Pic Courtesy: Animal Diversity Web

References: S. H. Prater The book of Indian Animals), Wikipedia, Animal Diversity Web, iloveindia.com

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Vanishing Species – Slender Loris

An Article by Mohan Pai

 
 
SLENDER LORIS
(Loris tardigradus malabaricus)

 
 

 

Hunted, trapped and killed for

medicinal and magical properties!

 
 
 
The Slender Loris is a small adorable looking creature with large ‘dish’ eyes. It’s a nocturnal primate found only in the tropical rainforests of Southern India andSri Lanka. They are able to live in wet and dry forests, as well as lowland and highland forests. They prefer thick thorny vegetation wherein they can easily escape predators and find the large assortment of insects that is the mainstay of their diet.
 
Loris tardigradus malabaricus is a subspecies of the slender loris which is only found in India. Their greatest concentration is found in the Western Ghats.

The Slender Loris is considered highly endangered and is listed in the IUCN Red List

 The slender loris is about the size of a chipmunk, with long, pencil-thin arms and legs. It is between 6-10 in. (15-25cm) long and has a small, vestigial tail. It weighs about 10.5-12 oz. (275-348g). The slender loris’ round head is dominated by two large, closely set, saucer-like brown eyes. They flank a long nose which ends in a heart-shaped knob. The eyes are surrounded by dark-brown to black circles of fur, while the bridge of the nose is white. It has a small, narrow lower jaw. The ears are large and round. Its coat is light red-brown or gray-brown on its back and dirty white on its chest and belly. The fur on its forearms, hands and feet is short. The slender loris has small finger nails on its digits. The second digit on the hand and foot are very short. They move on the same plane as the thumb, which helps them grasp branches and twigs.
 
The slender loris is an arboreal animal and spends most of its life in trees. Their movements are slow and precise. They like to travel along the top of branches. For the most part they hunt by themselves or in pairs at night, although they will come together and share a food supply. They live alone or with a mate and an infant. They will sleep with up to seven other lorises in a hollow tree or sitting up in the angles of branches. They are very social at dusk and dawn, playing, wrestling and grooming each other.Mating occurs twice a year; in April-May and October-November. Gestation is 166-169 days, after which one, and occasionally two infants are born. During the first few weeks mothers carry their infants constantly. The infant will grasp its mother around the waist with both its front and hind legs. After a few weeks the mother “parks” the infant on a branch at night while she forages. The babies move around carefully at first but by two months they are maneuvering around quite well. More mature lorises who sleep in the same tree may visit them at night to play and eat with them. Females will reach sexual maturity in 10 months and 18 months for males. The slender loris has a life span of 12 to 15 years.
 
  The slender loris is for the most part insectivorous. This means they eat insects, but they will also eat slugs, young leaves, flowers, shoots, and occasionally eggs and nestlings. They can stretch and twist their long arms and legs through the branches without alerting their prey. The slender loris eats a lot of noxious and bad smelling insects. They particularly like the acacia ant whose bite can numb a human arm. They also like toxic beetles and roaches. The slender loris will engage in urine washing, or rubbing urine over their hands, feet and face. This is thought to soothe or defend against the sting of these toxic insects. Native people have always believed that all parts of the slender loris have some medicinal or magical powers. This has contributed greatly to the decline of the slender loris. Destruction of their habitat is another reason for their decline.It is not clear how many slender lorises survive in the wild. Because of their small size and nocturnal habits, it has been difficult to do an accurate count. Until recently not much attention has been paid to the plight of the slender loris, but new interest has been shown in their species and studies are under way. The Indian government has laws protecting the slender loris, but its effect is difficult to guage.

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Vanishing Species – Slow Loris

An Article by Mohan Pai
SLOW LORIS
Nycticebus Bengalensis

 

A favourite animal of the pet trade, in Japan, a slow loris will cost you between $1,500 and $4,500

The Slow Loris is a mysterious creature that moves slowly though skillfully through the forest at night. These beautiful animals are marked with large eyes and bold stripes. Solitary creatures, Slow Lorises are active mainly at night. They forage for tender shoots and fruit, eating insects and bird eggs as well. Some are thought to eat small vertebrate animals. Territorial marking is achieved with urine scenting. However, it is not uncommon for the territories of males to overlap those of females. If a Slow Loris feels threatened, it releases a foul smelling musk that can become toxic when this secretion is combined with the saliva of the primate. In the daytime, Slow Lorises sleep curled up with their heads tucked into their legs. While eating, Slow Lorises use their hands and often hang from branches with their legs so they can hold their food. They are adept climbers, well adapted to arboreal life. Slow Lorises use a grooming claw on their first toes to keep their fur in order. They also use their tongues and mouths to groom themselves.

Most Slow Lorises weigh about three pounds (one and a half kilograms). They are usually between 10.5 and 15 inches (25 to 40 centimeters) long and their bodies have plump appearances. Slow Lorises have very large eyes circled by dark rings. White lines are seen between the Slow Loris’s eyes. Their bodies are predominantly white or very light gray in color. A darker stripe, usually of brown or reddish brown, runs down the back from the crown. The muzzles of Slow Lorises are relatively short and round. They have opposable thumbs. The tail is a mere stump.
By the time they are between 9 and 18 months old, most Slow Lorises are sexually mature. It is normal for them to reproduce about once every year to year and a half. The average litter contains one or two infants, and the gestation period lasts about 191 days. The baby Slow Lorises cling to the underside of their mother at birth. They are light gray in color and have lighter limbs and hands. While the mother Slow Loris forages for food, her infants cling to a branch or are placed in a nest. It is thought that the father or older siblings may aid in the rearing of infants. By the time they are about 11 weeks old, the infant will begin to acquire the darker coloration of an adult. Though young Slow Lorises are capable of consuming solid food when they are ten days old, they normally continue to nurse for three to six months after birth. Their life-expectancy is up to 14 years.

There are three species of slow loris and are classified as the genus Nycticebus. These slow moving primates range from Borneo and the southern Philippines in Southeast Asia, through India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Southern China (Yunnan area) and Thailand.Like all lorises, slow lorises are nocturnal and arboreal animals that prefer the tops of the trees. Also, they have slow, deliberate movements and a powerful grasp that makes them very difficult to remove from branches. They live as solitaries or in small family groups, and mark their territory with urine.Slow lorises can produce a toxin which they mix with their saliva and use as protection against enemies. Mothers will lick this toxin onto their offspring before leaving them to search for food. The toxin is produced by glands on the insides of their elbows. The lorises lick or suck it into their mouths and deliver it when they bite. The toxin is not known to be fatal to man, but causes a painful swelling.Slow lorises are opportunistic carnivores, typically eating insects, bird eggs and small vertebrates. With their slow quiet movements, they creep to their prey, in order to catch it with a lightning-quick snatch. They also eat fruits, but rarely.

In India, the Slow loris inhabits all the northeast states, with the northwestern limit of its range being the southward bend of Brahmaputra river. Their preferred habitats are tropical and subtropical evergreen and semi-evergreen rainforests with continuous dense canopies. They also prefer forest edges, which have a higher density of insect prey. The numbers are very small and the limited survey conducted by the Indo-US primate project (1999) indicated their presence in few isolated pockets only.

The scale of the threat is also unclear. Population estimates are often based on small surveys, and the official Red List of Threatened Species notes a lack of data from many areas, although a more recent specialist workshop categorised all five species as either Endangered or Vulnerable to extinction. Nobody knows the scale of the international loris trade either. Between 1998 and 2006, Japanese authorities seized 363 animals, while Thai, Indonesian and Singaporean officials uncovered 358 specimens bound for Japan.

References: Wikipedia

 

 MY BLOG LIBRARY
For some of my earlier aricles, please visit:
http://mohanpaiblogger.blogspot.com/
http://mohanpaisarticles.blogspot.com/
http://biodiversity-mohanpai.blogspot.com/
http://delhigreens.com/2008/03/10/whither-the-wilderness/
For some key chapters from my book ‘The Wetern Ghats’, please log on to:
http://westernghats-paimohan.blogspot.com/
For detailed blog (6 Chapters) on Mahadayi/Mandovi River Valley, please log on to:
http://mohan-pai.blogspot.com/
For the book ‘The Elderly’ please log on to:
http://oldagecare-paimohan.blogspot.com/


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