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Eastern Hoolock Gibbon spotted in Assam

By Correspondent

JORHAT, May 26 � For the first time, the rare species of the non-human primate, Eastern Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock leucondys) has been spotted by primatologists in three reserve forests in the State.

A team, led by primatologist Dilip Chetry of a prominent conservation group �Aaranyak�, in collaboration with the Zoology department of JN College, Boko and the State Forest department conducted the survey in three reserve forests of Sadia subdivision in Tinsukia district and spotted the endangered primates there. The Primate Conservation Inc., USA financially supported the programme.

Before the survey the study showed that the North East harbours as many as 11 primate spacies out of the total 25 species found in India. Out of those only nine species were confirmed to be present in Assam. But as the Eastern Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock leucondys) was spotted in the survey conducted between March and May, 2010, the number of such species found in Assam has increased to 10. Thus Assam has received the pride of harbouring the highest density of the primate species in the country.

�The survey team not only sighted the Hoolock Gibbons but also subsequently identified the same as the Eastern Hoolock Gibbon on the basis of scientific observation and research. The colour differences which distinguish it from the Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) were confirmed through binoculars and photographs. This identity was further authenticated through a review of recent literature and through personal correspondence with Professor Colin P Groves, the noted primate taxonomist�, Kumud Ghosh, education cum administrative officer, Gibbon Conservation Centre, Mariani told this correspondent.

The survey team led by Dr Dilip Chetry comprised Kumud Ghosh, Lalit Saikia, Pradip Baruah, Dimbeswar Chutia, Raju Lahon, Shambu Bauri and Rabi Gohain besides Dr Rekha Chetry, Department of Zoology, JN College, Boko, Kamrup Assam.

�The Gibbon survey was conducted in six reserve forests of Sadiya range in Tinsukia district, but the Eastern Hoolock Gibbon was spotted in three reserve forests of Hallow Gaon, Kukurmara and Kundil Kolia on the north bank of Lohit river�, Ghosh informed. The survey also confirmed the harsh reality that the gibbon population had already been wiped out from other three reserve forests namely, Deopani Reserve Forest, Sadiya Station North Block and Sadiya Station West Block of Sadiya range of forests.

Dr Chetry also pointed out that the Kundil Kolia Reserve Forest may be a potential conservation site for the Eastern Hoollock Gibbon. The survey team witnessed as many as 23 groups of this species in the Sadiya region on the north bank of the Lohit river. �The Kundil Kalia RF should be upgraded to a wildlife sanctuary under the name �Kundil Kolia Wildlife Sanctuary, as this is the sole breeding place of the newly spotted primate species�, said Kumud Ghosh.

Noted primatologist Chetry also expressed concern over alleged unabated encroachment on forest areas by neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh that has resulted in conversion of more than 4000 hectares of forest land into agricultural fields.

He also underscored the need for initiating a community-based bio diversity conservation programme in Sadiya area taking the newly found Eastern Hoolock Gibbon as the flagship species.

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