Q: I work at a zoo in Jackson, Mississippi in the US, working on educational signs for our animals. I’m currently working on information on the lion-tailed macaque. One thing we like to put on our signs is how guests can help. That might include supporting organizations that work with wildlife/conservation, purchasing sustainable products, etc. Do you have any suggestions on what they could do for the macaque? I’ve read that one of the major threats is the expansion of tea, coffee, and teak plantations. Purchasing responsibly grown and harvested products may be one of those things. Thank you so much for all of your hard work.

Asked by Lucy Barton, Jackson zoo, Mississippi, US

Answer from Divya Mudappa, senior scientist at Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Rainforest Research Station, Valparai.

Hi Lucy,

Glad to hear of your interest and that of the zoo that you work with to conserve and help build awareness about the Lion-tailed macaques. As you are already aware, they are restricted to the wet evergreen forests of the Western Ghats in India. Even within this region, about 25% of the populations area resident in small patches of forests on private land, usually embedded within commercial plantations of tea, coffee, cardamom and eucalyptus established over a century ago.

However, it is within these private forest fragments that they are most threatened by chronic degradation of the forests and by the roads that go through them. Some of the more serious threats in recent years have been widening of roads thereby disrupting canopy connectivity for arboreal mammals, fast-moving traffic on these roads resulting in road kills, feeding of these monkeys by tourists, and accumulation of garbage and litter in townships close to these forests.

Some of the measures that can help the survival of these populations are:

  1. Retaining or establishing canopy connectivity along roads that cut through these forest patches.
  2. Establishing connectivity between forest fragments.
  3. Ecological restoration of forest fragments and degraded forests using appropriate plant species.
  4. Control of speed of traffic on the roads passing through the forests.
  5. Educating and preventing tourists from feeding the animals
  6. Proper garbage disposal.
  7. People dependent on these forest patches must be provided with alternatives (for fuel wood).
  8. Reinforcing the houses (roofs, windows, doors) of people close to these patches to make them monkey-proof.
  9. Eco-labeling and incentives for plantation companies and individuals retaining, restoring and protecting these patches of forests and the endangered species.
  10. Supporting conservation groups engaged in this kind of work and action.

The benefits of living with wild species should directly go to the people who live in close proximity to them. They should be appreciated for their tolerance as well. The zoo could directly help with points 9 and 10. However, in the case of eco-labeling, specific criteria for forest and endangered species conservation have to be developed.

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