A female gibbon , orphaned by poachers at Barekuri village in Assam’s Tinsukia district, died on September 19 due to alleged negligency of Assam Forest Department. Kalia, as the gibbon was called was suffering from mysterious diseases for the last few days.
Ranadeep Duara , a Facebook user & digital creator wrote this morning, " Kalia gol goy.......Kalia is no more . The loving and affectionate of everyone, Kalia is gone . No one can contact her now onwards if coming to Barekuri Hoolock Gibbons Park .Kalia was suffering from mysterious diseases for the last few days. Inspite of repeated information to the department, no treatment arrangements were done for Kalia and due to that today morning Kalia was gone away from us ."
"Kalia was favourite of one and all . All are shocked by his demise. Every tourist used to meet Kalia . When called; he used to come near hoping from one branch of tree to another. Wherever you are now live nicely. Om Shanti. " Ranadeep further wrote.
Barekuri, means ‘twelve times twenty’ and is a cluster of many small villages clumped together to form a big one. And hoolocks have been living in this village since long .
The hoolock gibbon has coexisted peacefully with human beings for over a hundred years. The shy animal ventures out of its forest habitat, and makes itself quite at home in the gardens and orchards here. But due to electrification , poaching and deforestation the number was rapidly decreasing in last twenty years.
Some are fed by people, and are even considered ‘part of the family’. Many respond to human calls, climbing down from their perch to feed ; a prime tourist attraction place in upper Assam's Tinsukia district.
But not all these stories end well. Feeding wildlife is never desirable for either the animals or people. We do know of golden langurs routinely fed by tourists in Guwahati’s Umananda island. But this changes behaviour in primates and impacts their health — biscuits and cake can make them obese and their proximity to humans makes them vulnerable to infections including the flu, and can sometimes lead to conflict too.
The hoolock has a deep connection with Assamese culture, finding place in songs and folklore.
Idu Mishmis in Arunachal Pradesh believe the gibbons to be their ancestors. It is considered a bad omen to kill one, and so it is never hunted here.
A female hoolock In Meiteilon Manipuri, the ape is known as ‘ yongmu’ or black monkey. Legend has it that once a young girl from the Malangmei clan decided to run away from home because she was called lazy. And when she wandered into the forest she turned into a hoolock and never returned to the village. Manipuris too regard gibbons as their totem animal.
In Meghalaya’s Garo hills, the sacred groves are safe sanctuary to the arboreal animals. People regard them their ancestors. Many residents of Selbagre and Rensangre villages have trained as guides to take tourists into the forest to show them these beautiful creatures.
But the gibbons face serious threats — and not just from their interaction with humans. Listed today as ‘endangered’ by the IUCN, their population has dwindled by 90% in the last 30 years because of their increasingly fragmented habitat. In the 1970s, Assam along with Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Arunachal, Manipur and Nagaland supported as many as 80,000 individuals, but today only about 2,600 survive.
Hoolocks are particularly vulnerable because of their almost exclusively arboreal existence. They rarely ever come down to the ground, and move through the tree canopy through ‘brachiation’ or a form of movement in which they swing from their long arms. They can travel distances of 1.6 km every day in search of food, largely fruit, sometimes even lichen. So any fragmentation in the forest canopy could potentially be fatal: roads, farms, tea gardens.
Wildlife activists across Assam and entire northeast region have expressed shock over Kalia' death .
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