Construction in Barail Wildlife Sanctuary poses threat to langur habitat

Guwahati: Road construction and a railway line inside the Barail Wildlife Sanctuary in the Barak Valley of Assam threaten the habitat of Capped Langur.

The Barail Wildlife Sanctuary is home to seven primates, five of which are vulnerable, meaning their populations have dropped globally, and two are an endangered species (i.e. the Hoolock gibbon and the Bengal slow loris).

Capped Langur ( Trachypithecus pileatus) is one of five vulnerable species and one of seven primates in the Barail Wildlife Reserve (BWS).

Capped Langur (Trachypithecus pileatus) in Barail Wildlife Sanctuary. (Courtesy of Rofik Ahmed Barbhuiya)

The BWS is the only protected area in southern Assam, comprising about 326.24 km². Due to its diverse fauna and vegetation, this sanctuary has long attracted the attention of naturalists.

The BWS is located in the Barak Valley area of ​​southern districts of Assam. The area includes 14 reserve forests, of which the Barail Reserve Forest and the Northern Cachar Reserve Forests have been converted to BWS. It is a relatively new sanctuary, declared in 2004.

A study on Attitudes and perceptions of people about the Capped Langur a preliminary study in the Barail Wildlife Sanctuary, India, published in the latest issue of Endangered Taxa Journalindicates that there is a regular railway line under repair due to damage to its track especially during the monsoon season after the new broad gauge line was introduced in 2015.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Assam.

The study documented the perceptions of people (who live in Barail Wildlife Sanctuary) that any sustainable conservation strategy must have mutual benefits for wildlife and humans.

“In addition, National Road 27 is under construction inside the sanctuary and passes through the sanctuary,” the study said.

“This aspect deserves sincere attention, and to combat this development conflict, building safe underground tunnels (where vehicles can move freely without causing harm to animals) may be a good proposal,” the study says.

Parthankar Choudhury, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences at the University of Assam, said IsMojo: “National road 27 will hinder the free movement of animals. Additionally, as shown in other studies by the same lab, animals are frequently run over by moving vehicles along these highway areas, which are densely populated with wildlife.

“In many parts of the world, where similar problems exist, box-type steel frames are built along the entire length of the road, where traffic can move without hindrance or casualties to wild animals. Such measures can also be taken here,” he said.

A considerable number of landslides occur in these expanses during the monsoon between April and September every year.

A questionnaire, semi-structured interviews and discussions with forestry staff and local experts were used in this study to assess participants’ perceptions of current threats and conservation issues.

The results show that the majority of respondents were in favor of the conservation of Capped Langurs. Some say the species’ population has declined, although the specific number of capped langurs in the sanctuary is unclear as no population assessments have been made so far.

Respondents’ opinion of Capped Langur “threats and knowledge” was very different as 47% of respondents cited habitat loss and fragmentation as a major threat, followed by human exploitation (22%). development projects (17%), agricultural expansion (8%), and hunting (8%) and teasing (6%).

“Most people thought the Capped Langur population was in decline. Many felt that these langurs were no longer seen as frequently as in recent decades. Villagers regularly roam the buffer zones of the sanctuary, where they have witnessed a deterioration of forest cover due to increased logging, firewood collection and jhum practices. Thus, langurs may have moved from their traditional foraging areas in the heart of the BWS to good quality forests, and thus their perceptions reported,” the study states.

The growing human population is another major threat to wildlife in the BWS. A growing population leads to increased consumption of food, water and fuel. This leads to reduced wildlife habitat inside the sanctuary.

Choudhury says raising the level of awareness would inspire villagers to conserve all the important flora and fauna of the Barail Wildlife Sanctuary.

“In order to provide alternative livelihoods, it could also be very cost effective to promote value-added services among the mass of the tribal village and encourage benefit sharing through skills development of the villagers,” he said. he adds.

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Betty T. Simpson