Two eastern hoolock gibbons shifted to wildlife sanctuary

Two eastern hoolock gibbons were captured and released from Dello village in Arunachal Pradesh to a safer and more suitable habitat in the Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary in the state.

Dello (Arunachal Pradesh): Two eastern hoolock gibbons were captured and released from Dello village in Arunachal Pradesh to a safer and more suitable habitat in the Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary in the state.

Continuing efforts of conserving the last of India`s apes, the International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) in collaboration with the state Forest Department completed the exercise over a two-day period, said Arunachal Pradesh State Wildlife Advisory Member Ipra Mekola, who was part of the release team.

"Gibbons essentially live in strong familial units. Capturing every family is extremely difficult to begin with and the more complex the terrain, the more laborious and cautious the operation becomes," said Mekola on the project`s efforts.

"Every single capture and release carried out by the IFAW-WTI team has been meticulously planned ensuring as little stress to the gibbons as possible," he said.

This was the fourth leg of the Mehao Gibbon Translocation Project making it the sixth family to be shifted after the last move in December when a family of three hoolock gibbons was shifted from the village, he said.

The translocations by IFAW-WTI, through the years have been supported by the Noyen-Melendez Family Trust, Serenity Trust, and philanthropists Himraj Dang, Subhadra and Kannan Jayaraman, Wildlife Trust of India sources said.

Primatologist Kuladeep Roy, who is leading the project, commenting on the urgency of the project said, "The habitat for these gibbons in this area has degraded to a large extent. The gibbons are completely arboreal in nature and require a lot of trees for sustenance, mobility and survival".

"Now, there are only isolated clusters of trees remaining in the area, if any at all. This restricts gibbon movement often forcing them to descend from the high tree tops to the ground where they can`t move with ease and instances of conflict and predation arise," Roy said.

Hoolock gibbons are the only apes found in India with their distribution restricted to the North East region, Wildlife Trust of India sources said.

Two species have been identified here ? eastern hoolock gibbon (Hoolock leuconedys) and western hoolock gibbons (Hoolock hoolock), the sources said, adding, they are protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

WTI Regional Head in Arunachal Pradesh Sunil Kyarong, said, "What made yesterday`s release different from the earlier ones was that for the first time we had a member of the local Idu Mishmi clan present during the release. Generally, the tribe considers gibbons a taboo and her presence is symbolic of the gradual change in perception of the locals."

"Earlier in 2013, one of the female gibbons we had translocated gave birth in the wild which was a huge milestone since this is a major indicator of a successful rehabilitation. It meant that the gibbons are feeling completely at home in the release site," he added.

Simili Mithi said, "These apes are a part of our natural heritage and it`s sad that their habitat is now threatened so much. I firmly believe in the cause of their conservation and am very happy with the effort being put in by the IFAW-WTI in Dello. I`m glad that I was able to witness the translocation yesterday."

Several awareness programmes are also being held all year round in Dello by the conservation team to sensitise the locals towards the plight of the gibbons in a bid to reduce conflict and to encourage afforestation and salvage the remaining habitat for these apes, the WTI sources said.

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