• Differences in altitude make a primate species in the same Himalayan habitat choose between flowers and fruits as food options beyond their staple menu of leaves, a new study has revealed.
  • The Himalayan Gray Langur or the Chamba Sacred Langur (Semnopithecus ajax) is a colobine, meaning leaf-eating monkey.
  • It is considered an endangered species globally as its population is estimated to be less than 1,500 mature individuals in 15-20 groups.
  • Three primatologists studied the diet composition of five such groups in and around the Kalatop-Khajjiar Wildlife Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh between September and November 2020. They especially concentrated on two groups, one inhabiting the Kalatop forest at an average altitude of 2,396 metres, and the other based in the Khajjiar forest at an average altitude of 2,188 metres.
  • The domains of the two groups were only 208 metres apart, but the altitudinal gap made a huge difference when the monkeys took a break from feeding on the leaves of some 20 species of plants, primarily the Himalayan ivy (Hedera nepalensis) and the Himalayan oak (Quercus oblongata).
  • While the Kalatop group satisfied their craving for something different by feeding on flowers, the Khajjiar group ate fruits for a change of taste. Flowers and fruits constituted 11.11% and 15.49% of the diet of the two groups respectively. The preference for fruits or flowers “may depend upon the difference in their distribution in terms of elevation and availability of a particular plant part”, said the study published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.
  • The study was conducted by Rupali Thakur and Kranti Yardi of the Pune-based Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Environment Education and Research, and P. Vishal Ahuja of the Wildlife Information Liaison Department and Zoo Outreach Organisation based at Hardaspura in Himachal Pradesh’s Chamba district.
  • Apart from recommending a census for the Himalayan Gray Langur in the district, thescientists advocated a further long-term study for a comparison of diet and behaviour in the forested groups and the urbanised groups of this primate species.


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