Friday, April 30, 2010

Macaque Tales

Given that I have been fortunate enough to photograph wildlife over the past 2 or 3 years, I thought of writing about some of the animals and birds that I have had the opportunity to shoot. I was always interested in Wildlife and Nature from my childhood and a large part of the credit must go the lovely and pristine Nilgiri Hills where I spent about 20 years of my life.

It was not until a few years back that I was financially stable enough to afford a good camera that allowed me to capture images of things that I loved, namely wildlife and nature. On this post I want to share some pictures that I took back in 2008 during a trip to Valparai. I have a post on this trip somewhere in this blog but will nevertheless try to describe a little more about this elusive and endangered primate.

The Lion Tailed Macaque is an Old World Monkey that inhabits the rain forests of the Western Ghats. The hair of the Lion-tailed Macaque is dark-brown or black. Its outstanding characteristic is the silver-white mane which surrounds the head from the cheeks down to its chin, which gives this monkey its German name of "Beard Ape". The hairless face is black colored. With a head-to-tail length of 45 to 60 cm and a weight of 3 to 10 kg, it ranks among the smaller macaques

The tail is medium length with a length of approximately 25 cm and is a black tuft at the end, similar to a lion's tail. The males tail-tuft is more developed than that of the females.It is a specie that is endemic to the Western Ghats, which means that they are not found anywhere in else on this planet. 

 Above: A male LTM
As with most other wild species, the presence of man and the ever growing pressure on land for cultivation purposes has meant that the Macaque population has been decimated. Their range has become increasingly isolated and fragmented by the spread of agriculture and tea, coffee, teak and cinchona, construction of water reservoirs for irrigation and power generation, and human settlements to support such activities. Although no reliable sources are available (at least to my limited knowledge) on their actual numbers, estimates put the number of wild macaques at about 3000 to 3500.

I managed to spend about an hour photographing these wonderful creatures at Valparai. They seem to have become used to the presence of man and I found about 15 or 20 of them on the main road connecting Valparai and Pollachi. There are several deaths reported each year with these creatures being run over by over speeding vehicles. They came across as very gentle creatures and some of them let me come pretty close to them to get a nice close-up shot. The proximity to the road has also resulted in people trying to feed the monkeys and make fun of them and performing acts of idiocy without sparing any thought to the discomfort that they are causing.
All images taken on a Canon EOS 35mm Film Camera with 70-300mm Zoom Lens

Although the LTM is protected by law today, the conservation efforts today are centered around the much larger mammal species like the Tiger, Great Indian Rhinoceros and the Indian Elephant. It will take a much more disciplined conservation effort to protect this magnificent animal.

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