Languora (Hanuman) next door to extinction

Save Languora (Hanoman)Bangladesh being located in the monsoon tropical region is endowed with a great diversity of fauna and flora. Bangladesh is a habitat for 119 species of mammals, 379 species of resident and 199 species of migratory birds, 124 species of reptiles and 148 species of amphibians Out of 119 species of mammals about a dozen have already become extinct. Eleven more species, which include capped languor, are now endangered. There are three varieties of languors found in Bangladesh. There are, common languor found in Keshabpur, capped languor in the Madhupur forest and Phare's leaf languor in Chittagong Hill Tracts. The common languor, isolated in the populous area of Kashabpur Upazila under Jessore district, is also endangered and on the verge of extinction.

According to the elders of the locality, more than four thousands languors of this species were seen 70 to 80 years ago, roaming around the jungles and villages of Ramchandrapur, Brahmakathi, Baliadana, Madhyapura and Bhangati under Jessore district. The common languors of Keshabpur are vegetarian and move in groups like the languors of other species. After roaming around in search of food during the day-time, there languors of take shelter for the night on branches of trees 30 to 40 feet tall. The zoological nomenclature of this species of black-face languor is Seminopithecus Entellus

During the olden days the Keshabpur area was rich with an abundance of both timber and fruit-bearing trees. The big banyans, with their cavities, offered safe and secluded abode for the languors to keep on their reproductivity. But with the passage of time, the vast resource of trees has been depleted either giving way to human habitation or being used as firewood at brick fields. This made the languors shelters, seriously disturbing their reproductively and the number of languor population declined sharply.

Advocate Shri Nityanand Dey, an eminent social worker and Dr Dhirendranath Dutt, a dentist in Jessore say the languors, after finding their food and shelter being uncertain, had migrated in large numbers to the nearby districts of Jhenidah and Kushtia and beyond the border to Krishna Nagar in neighbouring India. They found some safe shelter and food at the temple area of Shri Chaitanya Dev in Krishna Nagar.

At present there are about five hundred common languors living in seven to eight groups in and around Keshabpur. Each group is led by a male, who does not allow any other male member in the group (with some exceptions). So, whenever a mother languor gives birth to a male childs, she takes the baby to a place beyond the knowledge and reach of the leader and rears the baby until it grows to adulthood. The new generation of adult males then form their only male groups for the time being (there are now two such groups of male adults in Keshabpur), wait for the opportune moment to attack the old guard of the original group to split that group into several ones to become leaders themselves. This grouping pattern revolves round the languor community.

Their community system is remarkably disciplined. But they are very rigid in their approach to any female member when she gets captivated by man and passes even a single night outside the group. In that event, the member is expelled from the group and if she persists to return to the fold of the group, she is harassed and beaten even to death.

True, they cannot speak human language, but they have senses as strong as human beings. They get furious when injured during visits to crop fields or fruit vines and later return there in groups to retaliate. If beaten up by men, they even go to law enforcers implicitly to seek justice and punishment to the wrong-doer.

Mother languors of the common species usually give birth to babies once in a year. Their average longevity is 20-25 years. Individual weight varies from 5 to 25 kgs. Their paws and feet are black as are their face. The body is covered by soft, gray hair, with patches of white and lighted under the belly. A languor moves with its tail erect, but relaxes it when sitting on a tree-branch. They are fearful of bows and arrows and guns as well. When smelling danger, some of the languors are occasionally seen clasping both hands in a gesture of seeking apology.

Statistics provided by Project Coordinator of Poverty Elimination Assistance Centre for Everywhere (PEACE) show that an average of 350 languors approached the five food distribution/feeding centres run by the organization. Of them, the number of male group leaders were 8, babies 40, young males 25 and the rest were female

When a member of a group dies an unnatural death, all the other members mourn the dead by sitting in a circle around the body and then leave the place together.

PEACE has launched a programme under permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forest to protect/conserve and nurse the endangered species of common languor. It has so far been running the programme with its own resources since November 2002. But it is hardly possible for the organisation alone to bear the huge costs involved in feeding, nursing and protecting so large a number of endangered languors. It, therefore, looks forward to local and international donors and aid agencies for financial assistance in the materialisation of the noble venture.

Source:IFMA Husain is Secretary General, PEACE, Daily Star, July 4, 2003

Languora (Hanuman) next door to extinction

Having survived for more than a century in some villages of Keshabpur, the hanuman species (Grey Langur) is now facing extinction. Living in a group of 10 to 20, hanuman finds it hard to survive in the face of continuous deforestation, fast expansion of township, unfriendly people of three villages in Keshabpur upazila, Jessore. Only six groups of hanuman are seen these days. According to wildlife expert Dr Ali Reza Khan, about 100 hanuman exist in the region.

A large group of 20 hanuman lives on Keshabpur bazar (market). Five other groups live in the bazar outskirts and in the fast-vanishing groves of Ramchandrapur and Bharmakathi villages. Villagers are also not kind to these animals, as they destroy their seasonal crops. During a visit to a hanuman habitat in Keshabpur, the Star correspondent asked to net some of the animals and take away with him so that they can have some relief.

We always have to keep an eye on the field, specially on the vegetable strips, otherwise they would come over there to damage everything. They pose a big threat to our crops," said Abujar Miah of Ramchandrapur. Dr Abul Hashem, a veterinary surgeon of Keshabpur, observed the government should start a food scheme for this species. "I have not done any survey, but I assume the number of hanuman has come down to almost half within the last 12 years," Hashem, who is working there since 1991 in two stints, said.

Some locals think that the alleged migration of Hindu community across the border brought misfortune to hanuman of this area. Traditionally, Hindus treat hanuman with great care for religious reasons. But, now the Muslim-dominated villagers snatch baby hanuman either to keep as pet or sell to the circus party and traders, locals claimed. Dr Ali Reza Khan, who is carrying out a research on hanuman of this region, told The Daily Star the hanuman could only be protected by limiting their forays into private properties.

Urging all to save the vegetarian species, Dr Reza suggested the government should take immediate steps to plant fruit trees in khas lands as well as on government and private office compounds. "The wildlife is protected under the Bangladesh Wildlife Preservation Act of 1974. As per the Act, the government is obligated to appoint wildlife biologists to protect not only the hanuman but also all wildlife species," said Dr Reza, who is also the curator of a Dubai zoo. Living close to extinction. Having survived for more than a century in villages of Keshabpur in Jessore, the hanuman species (Grey Langur) are now under threat of being wiped out. Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain

(Source:Pinaki Roy, The Daily Star, May 31, 2003)

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