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| Last Updated:: 21/01/2017

Macaques, hornbills under siege in Western Ghats











The disappearance of food sources and trees for nest ing and breeding is forcing lion-tailed macaques, great pied hornbills and the Nilgiri tahr in the rainforests of the Western Ghats to adapt to changing -and abnormal -environs. The species in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR), Pollachi, are struggling to survive with the food and trees available and, as a result, are displaying unusual behaviour.

They have found alternative food sources and trees in which to nest but their fight against genetic conditioning makes existence a struggle.

Wildlife biologist Divya Mudappa, of Valparai, said the hornbill (Buceros bicornis) population is still not in decline in Anamalai, unlike in the northeast, where poaching is a major threat. But habitat loss is a major cause of concern. The hornbills have had to adapt to a changing environment. Mudappa has observed that the large birds have started building nests in silver oak trees and have identified an alternative food source in the fruit of the shrub-like ficus tree. Now they also eat the fruit of the umbrella tree (Maesopsis eminii), a relatively new phenomenon.

In recent times tourists have been a positive nuisance to hornbills in Anamalai, Mudappa says. Researchers may hide behind trees to record behavioral patterns of the species but tourists stand right under the tree with a hornbill nest.

The female and the newborn stay in the nest while the male flies afar to fetch food for his mate and the newborn. "The male birds are essentially shy and when they see humans near their nests, they hover around and sometimes take flight all over again," Mudappa says. "This forces the mate and the newborn to skip a course of feed, which adversely affects the growth of the newborn most of all."

Naturalists say the other exotic arboreal species endemic to the Western Ghats, the lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus), with a mane of hair and a tail that makes it look like a lion, has started displaying behaviour that is associated with common monkeys or bonnet macaques, roaming the roads in search of food waste and leftovers. This is particularly common in the Pudhuthottam area of Valparai, wildlife officials say.

Those who regularly travel between Valparai and Coimbatore say encounters in the Ghat sections with the Nilgiri tahr are on the rise. Without warning, alpha males jump from cliffs to the road, forcing close en counters with motorists and exposing themselves to poachers.

ATR field director and chief conserva tor of forests V Ganesan said offi cials have planned to conduct a survey to protect the habi tat of the macaques and hornbills as and the Nilgiri tahr, all of which are widely found only in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve. This is the first time in more than a decade that officials are planning to conduct a census of lion-tailed macaques and great pied hornbills.Around a decade ago, when Ganesan was a wildlife warden, foresters conducted a headcount of the Nilgiri tahr.


There are small numbers of the animals in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the Nilgiris, in the Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Theni and in a small wooded patch in the Coimbatore forest division.



"But sighting them at close quarters is possible only in Anamalai," Ganesan says.









Source: The Times of  India