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The Golden langur (Trachypithecus geei), an "endangered" primate species, is "endemic" to India and Bhutan. Its global distribution is restricted to the region bounded by three rivers: Sankosh in the east, Manas in the west, and Brahmaputra in the south. This region includes 1500 sq. km in western Assam, India and 1400 sq. km in the foothills of Bhutan in the north up to an altitude of 3000 meters. In Bhutan the populations seem to be doing well in protected areas like Royal Manas NP (National Park), Black Mountain NP, Trumsingla WLS (Wildlife Sanctuary) and Phipsoo WLS. But in India, only a small portion of the Golden langurís range is protected (40 sq. km in Manas NP and 45 sq. km in Chakrashilla WLS) while a substantial population is distributed in different Reserve Forests, Proposed Reserve Forests and in non-forested areas of Dhubri, Bongaigaon and Kokrajhar districts of Assam. Recent estimates compiled with satellite images reveal that 30% of these forest habitats of the Golden langur were lost during the last 10-12 years in India (Forest Survey of India, 1997) resulting in severe fragmentation and degradation of the habitats (see appendix-I). The populations that live in these fragmented Reserve Forests and Proposed Reserve Forests are virtually trapped, isolated from the main breeding population and vulnerable to demographic and genetic factors.
Further, due to increased land use and felling of their feeding and roosting trees by the local communities in these fragmented forests, a number of Golden langur troops now occupy unfamiliar areas. Such areas include private lands in fringe areas, which have planted fruit in gardens near the degraded forest areas resulting in strong human-Golden langur conflict. There are no systematic studies of Golden langurs in the fragmented forests of its whole range. The overwhelming emphasis is on maintaining the remaining populations wherever it is feasible. Given the greatly reduced distribution of Golden langurs both in Bhutan and India and the current trend of habitat destruction in India, it must be realized that even small local populations are valuable and should be protected wherever practicable, and not abandoned on the unproven hypothesis that genetic degeneration would set in and automatically eliminate them. Unless a comprehensive study of the population status, demography and pattern of threats is conducted, no specific recommendation and action plan can be standardized. The proposed study will concentrate on demographic as well as socio-ecological factors, identify site-specific conservation measures and initiate community interaction programs. The project will also assist the Assam Forest Department to draft a management plan for conservation.
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