Only two more leaps before our Kalu Wandura disappears forever

Western Purple-leaf Monkey

Western Purple-leaf Monkey

The article “One leap more before our Kalu Wandura disappears forever” published in the SundayTimes on 30.12.2012 has been distorted at editing which is reported that the ‘The 2012 National Red List on Conservation Status of Species warns that it is “critically endangered”. But it should be corrected as “The endemic Kalu wandura or the purple-faced langur is listed as Endangered (2 more steps to Extinction) in the 2012 National Red List for Sri Lanka.

It is the subspecies (one of five) live in Western Province and hence termed as the western-purple faced langur is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ by IUCN (global List), and among the top 25 most threatened primates in the world. The rest of the article primarily highlighted the plight of Western-Purple Faced Langur.

The caption of the photo reported as “The late Banana, beloved of primatologist Dr. Jinie Dela. The picture was taken by a villager”. It should also be corrected as “The picture was taken by Dr.Dela”.

Herewith the unedited version is fully published.. Apologize for the mistakes which has been occurred beyond my control..!!

The National RedList 2012 on Conservation Status of Species launched last week recognized the heightened danger of Extinction some animals face. ‘Kalu Wandura’ or the Purple-faced Leaf Monkey is one such species that further degraded its conservation status to ‘Endangered’; only 2 steps behind the irreversible ‘Extinction’ in the IUCN threatened scale. This Monkey was once abundant in many areas and listed as ‘Vulnerable’ in the previous Red List published in 2007 before making the jump to ‘Endangered’ in 2012.

The Purple-faced Leaf Monkey or Purple-faced Langur (Semnopithecus vetulus) is Endemic and also the largest among other 3 monkey species – Toque Monkey, Grey langur and Lorises – that live in Sri Lanka. The purple-faced langur can be observed in many areas; but a little known fact is that there are 5 subspecies of ‘kalu wandura’ present in different regions. ‘Subspecies’ is a biological classification below species level that separates races of animals based on subtle differences, and there are 5 such identified populations living in geographical isolation in different areas of Sri Lanka. The ‘race’ that finds its home range primarily is the Western Province is the Western Purple-faced Leaf Monkey (Semnopithecus vetulus nestor), and the situation is worse for them as they are ‘Critically Endangered’; just one step away from ‘extinction’.

A leading authority on the Purple-faced Langur – Dr.Jinie Dela says there are many threats to this group of monkeys. She has been studying the western race since 1985, and her work brought this primate to world attention when it was listed among “The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates” in 2004, urging the need of having conservation actions to save it. The latest update of this report compiled by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the International Primatological Society (IPS) keep the Sri Lankan Monkey in its place unchanged in World’s most threatened 25 primates.

Range of different subspecies of Purple-faced Leaf-langur“Habitat degradation and habitat loss is the main threat to this primate” points out Dr Dela, based on her research. The past few decades have seen changes in land use in the Western Province, particularly in areas of the Colombo and Kalutara districts that are ranged by the Western Purple-faced Langur. With the spread of urbanization, and high price of land, home gardens are becoming smaller with less food trees for monkeys and humans. Many rubber plantations have been cleared for housing, industry, roads and other ‘human’ infrastructure.  Large trees are being cut down, and the monkey-human conflict is escalating due to intense competition between man and monkey for the few fruit trees left in pocket-sized home gardens. Monkeys constantly damage tiled roofs when they cross them to breach gaps in arboreal paths, resulting in more conflict.

This study highlighted the fact that many small rubber small-holdings that were abundant in the Colombo and Kalutara districts decades ago are now gone. These plantations gave the monkeys a little breathing space, by providing them places for rest and long ground play sessions. But now these are gone or going and the individual territories of monkey groups are shrinking. “This also creates more conflicts among groups that result in death of many animals’ lamented Dr.Dela.

Dr Dela recalling her memories said that on early days of research in the mid ’80; the kalu wanduras thrived in home garden where humans were somewhat tolerant on them. But nowadays, the tolerance level of people in gardens where monkey groups are pocketed is dropping.

Dr Dela’s long term observations also show that the loss of tall trees means that these monkeys have to travel and feed at unusually low elevations, and even come down to the ground to cross between different parts of their home range. This makes them very vulnerable to predation by dogs and poachers. There also are innumerable instances where monkeys in urban areas have lost their limbs, or even died, from contact with power lines or have become victims of road kills while crossing roads. Eventually, as conducive habitats even in rural areas shrink or get fragmented, local extinctions will invariably follow.

Dr.Dela gives a fine example to illustrate the kind of threat these monkeys face reminding the sad

Banana - Dr.Jini's favourite monkey shot by a villager

Banana – Dr.Jini’s favourite monkey shot by a villager

end of her favorite monkey ‘Banana’. Banana was a young adult in his prime bravely leading one of the troops studied by Dr.Dela, but just 2 years since his ascent as leader, ‘Banana’ was shot by an irate householder for feeding on mango fruit in his garden. Without the lead male, his adult females were taken over by the ‘Thug Troop’; the young animals were tragically scattered, and his infant son, Dodi, died of tetanus from a bite of an invading adult male. “Today the fateful mango tree, too, is missing in the garden where Banana met his tragic end, and I can barely recognize the area through which I once followed his little family from dawn to dusk” says the saddened researcher highlighting the fact that threats   ‘Banana’s next generation face are more severe.


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