The ancient site of Sri Surya Pahar, primarily of scientific interest to archaeologists up until recently, is now turning into a conservationist’s dream for the capped langur, an endangered species of monkey.
This langur species lives in the North East, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Its status is classed as vulnerable as it is threatened by habitat loss. The particular subspecies found at Sri Surya Pahar, however, falls under the endangered category.
Sri Surya Pahar is located around 18 kilometres from Dudhnoi, Assam, and is a popular spot in local circles. It is sacred for being at the confluence of three religions – Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism – temples of which dot the area.
It is also historically important and a site that has been explored by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), which has a museum that displays various historical artifacts that were discovered there.
Assistant Professor of Zoology at Goalpara College, Dhiraj Kumar Borah, has studied the capped langur for his doctoral thesis. He had then identified as many as 32 capped langurs during his year-long study.
“The capped langur is threatened due to a loss of habitat and the diminishing numbers have been worrisome. Earlier I did my research for about a year on these mammals to look into their food, reproduction habits and anthropogenic (human-related) pressures to understand the langurs,” said Borah.
Worrying about the situation faced by the mammals, he wanted to check once again on how they were faring in the current situation. A loss in numbers would be a body blow to the efforts of conservation that he had set out to achieve and the efforts of many that cared for the capped langurs.
“My research was done in the year 2008-09. These animals are extremely shy and hard to spot. They, however, use 40-50 percent of their time in foraging for food, which consists of leaves, twigs, fruits among others,” he added.
The lecturer felt that he needed to check on the status of the langurs to determine whether the area they were occupying was helping the numbers grow.
“I was really fearful and expected that the numbers would diminish due to various anthropogenic threats. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of langurs has gone beyond 50 with at least four to five families being identified by local temple authorities. While this may not be a huge increase, it is at least a big positive and shows the langurs are adapting well,” Borah said.
The lecturer credited the efforts of the temple committee, which has been going the extra mile to ensure the area remains protected along with the animals within.
“The rhesus macaque is very common in Sri Surya Pahar, but the capped langur is hardly seen. The temple authorities have, through the years, identified the numbers through sheer hard work. Further, they have also promised to ensure that they do everything possible to ensure the animals have the best chance at survival,” the expert stated.