GUWAHATI, Sept 7: Dr Dilip Chetry, a senior primatologist based in Assam, represented the state at the recent International Primatological Society-Malaysian Primatological Society (IPS-MPS) Joint Meeting 2023, themed ‘Primates And People: A New Horizon’, held in Kuching, Malaysia.
As the head of the Primate Research and Conservation division at Aaranyak, a leading research-oriented biodiversity conservation organisation in the region, Dr Chetry presented a paper titled ‘Identification of Knowledge Gap for Future Conservation of Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) in India’ at the Gibbon Symposium. This symposium focused on addressing knowledge gaps and strategies for safeguarding small apes, drawing insights from research, conservation, and outreach efforts.
In his presentation to an audience comprising scientists, primatologists, and gibbonologists, Dr Chetry discussed the conservation status and future opportunities for the western hoolock gibbons in India. He highlighted the threats faced by these gibbons and the successful conservation initiatives undertaken by the government of India and the government of Assam, including the declaration of national parks where the flagship species is the hoolock gibbon. Additionally, Dr Chetry elaborated on Aaranyak’s conservation efforts in this regard.
The western hoolock gibbon is India’s sole ape species and is distributed across the seven north-eastern states, primarily along the southern bank of the Brahmaputra-Debang River system. It is classified as endangered by the IUCN and is listed under Schedule 1 of the Indian (Wildlife) Protection Act 1972.
Dr Chetry also delivered a presentation on ‘Habitat Corridors of Golden Langur (Trachypithecus geei) in Bongaigaon district of Assam, India’ during a symposium on ‘Impacts of Development on Primates: Gaps, Lessons Learned, and Potential Solutions’ within the same event.
The golden langur, another endangered primate species, is endemic to India and Bhutan. Its global distribution is limited to a small area between the Manas River in the east, Sankosh River in the west, the Brahmaputra in the south, and the Indo-Bhutan border in the north. The primary threats to golden langurs in India are habitat loss and fragmentation due to development.
A study conducted in the Bongaigaon district of Assam during 2022-2023 identified existing and potential corridors for golden langurs based on field studies, satellite image analysis, and questionnaires. The study revealed five existing and three potential corridors in the district. It also documented the unfortunate deaths of three golden langurs (one adult male and two adult females) due to highway crossings and two langurs (one adult male and one adult female) due to electrocution. The study emphasised the urgent need for canopy bridges at three strategic points to ensure the safe movement of golden langurs across highways.
Dr Chetry’s conservation awareness trip to Malaysia was supported by Re:wild, an international organisation dedicated to biodiversity conservation.