In the Anamalais, highways and the resulting fragmented canopies, are a huge threat to lion-tailed macaques. The highways department has been widening and improving the quality of roads to cater to the growing tourist population. There has been a sharp increase in the number fairly silent cars that speed through such roads. Macaques have also been emboldened by tourists feeding them, and thus hang out by the roadside. All this has led to a growing number of roadkills to this highly endangered species.
The Forest Department had put up half a dozen bamboo bridges from tree to tree across the road in this area. But the bridges were not durable and the macaque deaths continued. With the help of conservation friends in Bangalore, lengths of used fire hoses were procured. Working together with the forest department, We wove them into a bridge and replaced the decaying and breaking bamboo bridges at two locations. These seemed more durable, with rubber-lining inside and a canvas outside layer. Two of our field assistants, great tree climbers and honey collectors, helped us install these bridges. The Valparai Ranger, M. Krishnaswamy, took active interest and made available forester Muniyandi and Anti-Poaching Watcher Nandakumar to help out with everything required. We were gratified when, the day after the bridges were installed, we saw macaques comfortably negotiating the bridges to safely cross the road. We hope that they continue to use the canopy bridges and live in safety.
Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
Although engineering solutions are not the best hope for all conservation problems, we sometimes do have to live with such methods for now. Hopefully, not too far into the future, we will have aesthetically pleasing, large, native trees lining these roads, with branches wide enough to overlap each other, over the road. Such native trees can double-up as natural canopy walkways for the monkeys and other arboreal mammals like giant squirrels and brown palm civets.