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Home Explore A review on the distribution of Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) in Northeast India

A review on the distribution of Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) in Northeast India

Published by researchinbiology, 2014-11-21 03:28:43

Description: The Western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) occurs in the forests of Northeastern India, found in the following states : Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram. In this article, we discuss the published information on distribution of Hoolock gibbons in Assam and other areas of Northeast. Several studies were carried out on the presence or absence from the protected areas but Hoolock gibbons are also present outside the protected areas particularly in Reserve Forest (RF), Private Forest (PF) and Community Forest (CF) and Village Reserve Forest (VRF). The distribution status of Hoolock gibbon in Northeast India is still not conclusively known. In the presence of above facts, this paper briefly reviews the studies on Western hoolock gibbon across its distribution range in Northeast India

Keywords: Western hoolock gibbon, Hoolock hoolock, Northeast India, southern Assam, distribution, conservation,Hoolock leuconedys


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Journal of Research in Biology ISSN No: Print: 2231 –6280; Online: 2231- 6299 An International Scientific Research Journal Original Research A review on the distribution of Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) in Northeast IndiaJournal of Research in Biology Authors: ABSTRACT: Pallab Deb1*, Prabhat Kumar Rai1 and The Western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) occurs in the forests of Parimal C. Bhattacharjee2. Northeastern India, found in the following states : Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram. In this article, we discuss the published Institution: information on distribution of Hoolock gibbons in Assam and other areas of Northeast. 1. Department of Several studies were carried out on the presence or absence from the protected areas Environmental Science, but Hoolock gibbons are also present outside the protected areas particularly in Mizoram University, Reserve Forest (RF), Private Forest (PF) and Community Forest (CF) and Village Aizawl, Mizoram, India. Reserve Forest (VRF). The distribution status of Hoolock gibbon in Northeast India is still not conclusively known. In the presence of above facts, this paper briefly reviews 2. Former Professor, the studies on Western hoolock gibbon across its distribution range in Northeast India Department of Zoology, because it is essential to understand the population status and distribution of any Gauhati University, Assam, endangered species like Hoolock gibbon for formulating action plan for their India. conservation. Corresponding author: Keywords: Pallab Deb. Western hoolock gibbon, Hoolock hoolock, Northeast India, southern Assam, distribution, conservation. Email Id: Article Citation: Pallab Deb, Prabhat Kumar Rai and Parimal C. Bhattacharjee. Web Address: A review on the distribution of Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) in Northeast India. documents/RA0428.pdf. Journal of Research in Biology (2014) 4(3): 1301-1310 Journal of Research in Biology Dates: An International Received: 04 Mar 2014 Accepted: 22 Mar 2014 Published: 03 Jun 2014 Scientific Research Journal This article is governed by the Creative Commons Attribution License ( licenses/by/2.0), which gives permission for unrestricted use, non-commercial, distribution and reproduction in all medium, provided the original work is properly cited. 1301-1310 | JRB | 2014 | Vol 4 | No 3

Deb et al., 2014INTRODUCTION After McCann‟s (1933) two months study on the Hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) a tree behavior of the Hoolock in the Naga Hills in 1930, followed by an exploratory study conducted by Tilsondwelling ape, characterized by its white brows, also (1979) in the Hollangapar Reserve Forest in upperknown as “White Browed Gibbon” is the only ape found Assam. Since 1980‟s , there has been a keen interest inin the Indian Subcontinent (Figure 1 and 2). In 2005, primate studies in Northeast. Several studies on theMootnick and Groves described Hoolock as two distinct Western hoolock gibbon‟s population and distributionspecies, the Western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) status in Northeastern India were carried out by severaland the Eastern hoolock gibbon (Hoolock leuconedys). workers. In Assam (Tilson, 1979; Choudhury, 1990,The Western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) occurs 1996a, 1996b, 2000, 2001, 2009a, 2009b; Das et al.,in the forests of Northeastern India, found in the 2003a, 2003b, 2004, 2005, 2009; Kakati, 2004, 2006;following states : Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Kakati et al., 2009), Tripura (Mukherjee, 1982; Gupta,Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram. Where as 2001; Gupta and Dasgupta, 2005), Meghalaya (Alfredthe Eastern hoolock gibbon (H. leuconedys) found only and Sati, 1986, 1990; Choudhury, 1998, 2006; Gupta andin the state of Arunachal Pradesh and certain places of Sharma, 2005a; Sati, 2011), Mizoram (Misra et al., 1994;Assam (Chetry and Chetry, 2011). There has been a Gupta and Sharma, 2005b; Choudhury, 2006), Nagalandgradual decline by more than 90% in the population of (McCann, 1933; Choudhury, 2006), ManipurHoolock gibbon in the wild because of several kinds of (Choudhury, 2006) and Arunachal Pradesh (Chetry et al.,human actions or human activities (Walker et al., 2007). 2003 and Kumar et al., 2009 and Das et al., 2009).The species is threatened by habitat loss, shiftingagriculture, expansion of tea gardens and coffee estates, The presence of Hoolock gibbon in Manipur wasvarious kinds of developmental projects, monoculture reported by Choudhury (2006). Hoolock gibbons weretree plantations, hunting for food and traditional located in the wildlife sanctuaries of Bunning, Jiri-medicine. (Choudhury, 1990, 1991, 1996a; Srivastava, Makru, Kailam,Yangoupokpi-Lokchao and Zeilad.1999; Ahmed 2001; Malone et al., 2002; Solanki and According to Choudhury (2006) Hoolock gibbons areChutia, 2004, Das et al., 2006; Walker et al., 2007). In also found in the Shiroi and Anko (Anggo Ching) ranges,this article, we discuss the published information on but the declining trend continues everywhere in Manipur.distribution of hoolock gibbons in Assam and other areas Hoolock gibbons are still found in the jungle of Manipurof Northeast. but it is very sad to learn that poaching is a serious threatHoolock Gibbon in Northeast India to this endangered species whose number is declining day by day. The Northeastern region of India is mostsignificant as it represents the confluence of the Indo- Hoolock gibbons are also present in Meghalaya.Malayan, Indo-Chinese and Indian biogeographical Survey on Hoolock gibbon in Jaintia Hills was carriedrealms. The Northeastern region is unique in providing a out by Gupta and Sharma during the month of May 2003.profusion of habitats of various primates (Srivastava, They carried out the survey in Narpuh Block-I RF and2006). The Hoolock gibbon was first described by Narpuh Block-II RF and the corridor area joining theHarlan and Burrough (1834) and assigned to the genus Narpuh RF ( Block-II ) with the Saipung Reserve Forest.Hylobates by Blanford (1888-1891). Most of the earlier A total area of about 36.44 km2 was surveyed in thedescriptions of the Hoolock are of taxonomic interest or Jaintia Hills and 17 groups of gibbons were locatednatural history observations (Alfred and Sati, 1986). (Gupta and Sharma, 2005a). In Nongkhyllum wild life1302 Journal of Research in Biology (2014) 4(3): 1301-1310

Deb et al., 2014Figure 1. Western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock), Figure 2. Western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock),Adult male. Photo: © Pallab Deb Adult female. Photo: © Pallab Debsanctuary 15 groups of Hoolock gibbon located in this located in West Garo Hills (Sati, 2011). According tosanctuary, ten were located inside the sanctuary, four Sati (2011) the diminishing trend of Hoolock gibbongroups in Reserve Forests and only one group was population is 26.2% in West Garo Hills District oflocated in a private forest at Umla (Gupta and Sharma, Meghalaya.2005a). A total of 39 groups of gibbon were located inWest Garo Hills including Nokrek National Park and In Nagaland Gibbons have been recorded in allNokrek Biosphere Reserve. The Balpakram National the districts (Choudhury, 2006). They occur in IntankiPark (200km2) lies in the West Garo Hills and West National Park and Fakim Wildlife Sanctuary andKhasi Hills districts of southern Meghalaya. A total of Singphan Reserved Forest. But according to Choudhurythree groups were located in Balpakram National Park (2006) gibbon has disappeared from Pulie Badge and(Gupta and Sharma, 2005a). Four groups in Siju wild life Rangapahar Wildlife Sanctuaries.sanctuary and adjacent areas in South Garo Hills. Theyalso surveyed Baghmara Pitcher Plant Sanctuary and Gupta and Sharma (2005b) estimated theReserve Forest and found that five groups of Hoolock population of gibbons in all the existing protected areasgibbon are living inside the Baghmara Reserve Forests. and the Reserved Forests of Mizoram. And they reportedA total of 83 gibbon groups were recorded in this study. 72 groups of gibbons, only 3 (4.2%) groups wereChoudhury (2006) also reported the presence of Hoolock actually sighted of the remaining groups, 20 groupsgibbon in Balpakram and Nokrek national parks and in (27.8%) were located based on the songs heard duringthe wild life sanctuaries of Nongkhyllum and Siju. the surveys and the presence of remaining 49 groupsDuring a long-term study on the Hoolock gibbon in West (68%) were based on the secondary information (GuptaGaro Hills District, a detailed survey was made by and Sharma, 2005b). Hoolock gibbons are also present inAlfred and Sati and a total of 42 family groups and four all the districts of Mizoram (Choudhury, 2006). Hoolocksolitary individuals of gibbons were recorded (Alfred and gibbon present in all the wildlife sanctuaries andSati, 1990). J.P. Sati again conducted a survey on National Parks of Mizoram. According to ChoudhuryHoolock gibbon in West Garo Hills District in the year (2006) the existence of Hoolock Gibbon in Tawi2007. A total of 25 family groups of gibbons were Wildlife Sanctuary is doubtful. In Tripura, the presence of Hoolock gibbon was reported by Mukherjee (1982). Gupta (2001) confirmedJournal of Research in Biology (2014) 4(3): 1301-1310 1303

Deb et al., 2014the presence of Hoolock Gibbon in Trishna and Gumti was done by Kakati (2004, 2006). Kakati et al., (2009)Wildlife Sanctuaries. In 2005 Gupta and Dasgupta again carried out a survey in fragmented forests ofrecorded a total of 39 groups over an area of 53km2; eastern Assam. The survey was conducted in Dibrugarh,16 groups were confirmed through personal Digboi, Doom-Dooma and Tinsukia Forest Divisions incommunications with the local people and forest staff. 2002. They found the encounter rates for Gibbon groupsSongs were heard from 15 groups and only eight groups were lowest in the small forest fragments and increasingwere actually sighted. as the forest size increased . They recorded similar trends with group sizes. Das et al., (2003a) recorded 80 areas as In Arunachal Pradesh very few studies were Hoolock gibbon habitat in Northeastern India and a totalconducted on Gibbons till 2003. Chetry et al., (2003) of 379 Gibbons were recorded and the number variedconducted a quantitative study in Namdapha National from 1 to 25 among these areas. Das et al., (2009)Park on the population status of gibbons. And they estimated the population of Hoolock gibbons in Assamrecorded ten groups with a total population of 33. to be around 4,500-5,500 individuals (excluding solitaryAnother study on the distribution and population status individuals), and the total area of Gibbon habitat asof Western hoolock gibbons in Namdapha National Park 7,369km2. Today, most of the forest patches in Assamwas done by Kumar et al., (2009). They recorded a total are small and isolated. Such small size and scatteredof twenty groups with a total population of 50. Eleven forest fragments unable to support above 300 gibbongroups (55%) were recorded by indirect observations population and some scattered forest fragments containwhere as nine groups (45%) were observed directly. Das one pair of gibbon (Das et al., 2009). Das et al., (2011)et al., (2009) reported a total of 46 groups of Hoolock identified ten priority „conservation areas‟ for long termgibbons in Arunachal Pradesh during their surveys in conservation of Hoolock gibbon in Assam. Each priority2005-2006 with an average group size of 3.1 individuals. conservation area include a cluster of wild life sanctuaries, reserved forests and proposed reserved The distribution status of Hoolock gibbon in forests. These conservation areas or forest complexesAssam was described by various researchers. Tilson have the greatest potential for long term conservation of(1979) observed the behaviour of Hoolock gibbon in the Western hoolock gibbon in Assam. Of these ten prioritydifferent seasons in Assam and he reported the group conservation areas of Assam, Karbi Anglong district ofsize of 3.2 individuals for 25 groups and 3.4 for 7 central Assam, comprises five priority conservationgroups. Choudhury (1990) studied the population areas, two priority conservation areas are in Southerndynamics of Hoolock gibbon at 8 different groups in part of Assam. One priority conservation areas is inAssam. Choudhury (2009a) has given a rough population Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts and Kamrup andestimate of Karbi Anglong district of Assam indicates Nawgaon districts has one each. Five prioritythat the total numbers of Hoolock gibbons today could be conservation areas or forest complexes out of these tenbetween 2,400 and 3,200. This number can be compared have been identified from Karbi Anglong. Of these fiveto an estimate in 1991-1992 of 3,500-4,800. The priority complexes, the Langlakso-Mikir Hills-Kalyonidistribution and status of Hoolock gibbon in Tinsukia complex and Borjuri-Jungthung-Western Mikir Hillsand Dibrugarh district was described by Choudhury forest complex are two important forest complexes of(2009b). According to him the Gibbon number was near Karbi Anglong district, prioritized for long termabout 1,700 in 1995-1996 but recently their number may conservation of western Hoolock gibbon in the statebe fewer than 1,300 individuals. Study on impact offorest fragmentation on the Hoolock gibbon in Assam1304 Journal of Research in Biology (2014) 4(3): 1301-1310

Deb et al., 2014(Biswas et al., 2013). Biswas et al., (2013) has of Barail WLS-North Cacher Complex. Hoolock gibbonsundertaken a survey of these two priority complexes to are also found in several tea estates of Barak Valley. Debknow the habitat quality and status of the western et al., (2010-11) reported the existence of HoolockHoolock gibbon. They recorded a total of 80 individuals gibbons in Rosekandy and Silcoorie tea estates. Islamwith 27 family groups of Hoolock gibbon during the et al., (2013) reported the presence of 10 family groupssurvey. From Langlakso-Mikir Hills-Kalyoni forest of Hoolock gibbons with a total population of 33 incomplex they recorded 61 individuals in 20 family Innerline Reserved Forest of Barak Valley.groups and from Borjuri-Jungthung-Western Mikir Hills Hoolock gibbon habitat is usually the closedforest complex they recorded 19 individuals in seven canopy of tropical evergreen forests, tropical wetfamily groups and the overall family groups ranging evergreen forests, tropical semi-evergreen, tropical moistfrom two to five individuals (Biswas et al., 2013). They deciduous and subtropical hill forests in India (Srivastavaestimated the population of Hoolock gibbon in 1999; Molur et al., 2005). The species is threatened byLanglakso-Mikir Hills-Kalyoni forest complex between anthropogenic activity such as fuelwood collection, use682 to 871 groups and 2015 to 2578 individuals with the of forest resources and forest land, extracting medicinalmean number predicted at approximately 2296. Similarly plants and wild vegetables and mainly because ofthe population of Hoolock gibbon in Borjuri-Jungthung- agricultural activities. Such kind of anthropogenicWest Mikir Hills forest complex between 157 to 193 activity leads fragmentation of habitat (Kumar et al.,groups and 465 to 571 individuals with the mean number 2009). Habitat fragmentation restricts the movement ofpredicted as approximately 518. Hoolock gibbon through the canopy in search of food.Hoolock Gibbon in Southern part of Assam Hoolock gibbon generally eat fruits, leaves and flowers.Southern region of Assam is known as “Barak When their preferable food is insufficient gibbon alsoValley”. The region is named after its main river consume bamboo shoots (Kumar et al., 2013). Hoolock“Barak”. Hoolock gibbons are found in the various parts gibbon is mostly frugivorous but during winter seasonof Barak Valley in Assam (Choudhury, 2004; Dattagupta the choice shifted from fruit to leaves (Kakati, 2006).et al., 2010; Das et al., 2003a; Das et al., 2011; Deb The distribution status of Hoolock gibbon in Northeastet al., 2010-11; Islam et al., 2013). In the Southern part India is still not conclusively known. Several studiesof Assam, Hoolock Gibbons are found in Barail were carried out on the presence or absence from theProtected Reserve Forest, North Cachar Hills Reserve protected areas but Hoolock gibbon also present inForest, Innerline Reserve Forest, Barail Reserve Forest, outside protected areas particularly in Reserve ForestKatakhal Reserve Forest, Longai Reserve Forest, Singla (RF), Private Forest (PF), Community Forests (CF) andReserve Forest and Patharia Reserve Forest (Das et al., Village Reserve Forest (VRF).2003a). When identifying ten priority forest complexes ConservationDas et al., (2011) emphasized on two basic criteria, Tropical and subtropical forest of Northeast Indiahabitat integrity and biological importance for long-term is the habitat of Hoolock gibbon in India. But theconservation of Hoolock gibbon in Assam. Out of ten declining trend of Hoolock gibbon population continuespriority forest complexes in Assam two priority forest in its entire distributional range (Kumar et al., 2013).complexes are in Barak Valley viz. Innerline-Kathakhal- Hoolock gibbons are protected by law in India. But it isSinghla-Barak complex and Barail Wildlife Sanctuary- unfortunate that their conservation has not been taken upBarail protected Reserve Forest-Unclassified forest north seriously till date. The communities living in or near theJournal of Research in Biology (2014) 4(3): 1301-1310 1305

Deb et al., 2014Hoolock gibbon habitat depends on forest resources and male Hoolock gibbon in Aizawl Zoological Park is notbad economic conditions along with population influx clear. For successful captive breeding of Hoolock gibbonplay devastating role in respect of survival parameters of Central Zoo Authority of India can adopt co-operativethis species. Hoolock hoolock is listed by the IUCN Red breeding programme with other zoos in North East IndiaList of Threatened Species as “Endangered”. The species by transferring animals and sharing their off-springs. Forwas listed on Schedule-I, the highest schedule on the conservation of Hoolock gibbon in the wild need aIndian Wildlife (Protection) Act in 1972 and also in detailed strategy action plan for the future conservation.Appendix-I of CITES. Western hoolock gibbon is also Das et al., (2011) already identified ten priorityincluded in the list of 25 most endangered primate conservation areas or forest complexes which have thespecies of world (Walker et al., 2009). There are various greatest potential for long term conservation of westernconservation efforts for Hoolock gibbon but the species Hoolock gibbon in Assam. Similar identification ofis still not out of danger. The Government of India is not priority forest complexes are required in other Northserious enough about the conservation issues affecting Eastern states. All the states of North East India have athe country‟s only ape species (Chetry and Chetry, huge conservation scope but despite of having2011). Immediate step for conservation of Hoolock conservation scope Hoolock gibbon is facing enormousgibbon is to initiate baseline research both in captivity anthropogenic pressure ranging from habitat loss,and in the wild. The species is distributed across nine encroachment, fragmentation and hunting throughout thezoos in India with a total of 40 numbers (Srivastav and entire distribution range making the species extremelyNigam, 2009). The species has a poor breeding history in vulnerable. The primates and the local people directlycaptivity in Indian zoos. However, the species has a dependent on the same forest resource for their basicnumber of animals which have the potential to contribute requirements is the main cause for concern (Kumar et al.,their genes to the captive population (Srivastav and 2009). Most local people are unaware about the legalNigam, 2009). To create environment of ex-situ status of Hoolock gibbon and lack of trust towards forestconservation awareness and to initiate captive breeding department are big conservation problem (Biswas et al.,programme for selected endangered species of the 2013).region, Aizawl Zoological Park, Mizoram wasestablished in 2002. Every effort has been made to CONCLUSIONprovide required housing, feed and health care to all the For conservation of this species the governmentanimals in the zoo as per Central Zoo Authority of India should start a Hoolock gibbon project through out thetechnical guidance and financial support. According to entire distribution range of the species to determine theannual inventory of Aizawl Zoological Park 2007-2008, present distribution, population status and evaluateof mammals, the opening stock of Hoolock gibbon as on different kinds of threats. It will give a baseline01.04.2007 was one male and four female, a total of five information to formulate area specific action plan. Weindividuals and closing stock as on 31.03.2008 was a need to provide alternative livelihood to the peopletotal of seven individuals with two male and five female settling in and around the Protected Areas, Reservegibbons because of acquisition of one male and one Forest, Protected Forest etc. Community educationfemale gibbon. No news of captive breeding of Hoolock program for local people could encourage the localgibbon during that period of time (Mizoram State community to participate in the management process.Pollution Control Board, 2009). But the present status of We hope that Hoolock gibbon shall continue their loud1306 Journal of Research in Biology (2014) 4(3): 1301-1310

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