Western Ghats

LTM in the neighbourhood

Building coexistence to conserve an endangered primate

This study in the Anamalai hills examined local people’s perceptions towards lion-tailed macaques, identified housing vulnerability to macaques, and people's responses and interactions with this primate in order to develop coexistence measures.

Lion-tailed macaques of Valparai

The lion-tailed macaque is an endangered primate endemic to Western Ghats. An earlier study found that 31 troops with around 460 individuals of lion-tailed macaques occur in the rainforests of the Anamalai hills. At least 12 troops and over 150 individuals now occur in rainforest fragments within plantations on the Valparai plateau. In recent times, macaque troops living in fragments close to developed areas and penetrated by roads have shown behavioural alteration and become habituated to people, and suffered more frequent roadkill mortality and conflicts due to feeding by tourists or monkeys visiting open waste dumps and homes. Finding solutions to these issues will enable the conservation of this species.

In this study, we explored the perceptions of local people towards lion-tailed macaques and their interactions with this endangered and endemic primate.

Perceptions and coexistence

Questionnaire survey was conducted in colonies and residences in and around three rainforest fragments—Puthuthottam, Korangumudi, and Old Valparai—where lion-tailed macaque troops occur. Macaques near Korangumudi and Old Valparai rarely ventured close to residences and many people remained unaware of their presence. Respondents in and around Puthuthottam were aware of the macaques and most (68%) tend to have some negative perceptions since macaques often come close to human habitations. Most respondents (87%) were of the opinion that the macaques visited human habitations in search of food and garbage. We found that housing conditions influenced the people's perception: more people (84.5%) living in tiled-roof houses tended to have negative perceptions when compared to people living in asbestos-roof and concrete structures. Past fragmentation and ongoing habitat degradation also contributed to macaques coming to the ground and directly interacting with people more often.

To reduce negative interactions and build human – macaque coexistence we identified specific measures related to:

  1. Improving housing through monkey-proofing measures
  2. Improving garbage disposal
  3. Building awareness on specific issues
  4. Ecological restoration of rainforest fragment and retention of native shade trees in plantations
The survey results will be used as a baseline and to prioritize implementation of identified coexistence measures along with local people, plantation management. and forest department.