BILBARI (India-Bangladesh border): India and Bangladesh have decided to take concerted conservation efforts to protect the rare spectacled langur along with other primates found in Patharia Hills Reserve Forest on either side of the fenced border along Assam's Karimganj district.
A decision to this effect was taken at the last meeting of deputy commissioners of Karimganj and Cachar districts along with their counterparts from Sylhet and Moulvibazaar districts of Bangladesh, Karimganj deputy commissioner Sanjiv Gohain Boruah said.
The reserve forest, home to the endangered spectacled langur, Hoolock gibbon and golden langur, is spread across both the countries with the border fencing passing through it and loss of habitat posing a major threat to the wildlife present in the forest, he pointed out.
Spectacled monkeys have been sighted here in large number, though a proper survey is yet to be conducted while several colonies of the Hoolock gibbon and some golden langur have also been sighted within the forest.
"The primary focus of the conservation effort will be to preserve the habitat for the survival of the primates and awareness campaigns would be conducted in the fringe villages to urge people not to destroy the forests for firewood," he said.
The BSF personnel, guarding the India-Bangladesh border along this sector, have also been urged to ensure that the forest is preserved so that it remains a safe haven for the primates, Gohain Boruah added.
The Patheria Hills Reserve Forest, spread over an area of 7647.30 hectares on the Indian side, is predominantly a natural forest on the western border of Karimganj and consists of two blocks Patheria 'A' and 'B'.
"The forest is dotted with several 'cherras' or springs which helps to drain out the stock water quickly and along with the alluvial soil present leads to quick growth and natural regeneration of the forests," divisional forest officer S Ahmed said.
There has been some plantation along the southern side of the forest of teak trees but the forest remains natural with bamboo, cane, reeds and shrubs mostly found in the forest, he added.
In Assam, this is the only forest where the spectacled monkey or the "Phayre's leaf monkey" is found while Mizoram and Tripura, where it is the state animal, are the other two states in the country where it inhabits, he said.
Popularly called the " chasma bandar", it mostly inhabits moist evergreen forest, bamboo forest along hillsides and streams with Patheria providing an ideal habitat for them.
The langurs are grayish to black with the brow, hands and feet dark, black and the upper arms, legs and tail silvery gray and they have a white patch around the eyes and on upper and lower lips.
In Patheria, they mainly feed on bamboo shoots and spend the whole day in a single bamboo grove eating mostly 60 per cent leaves and 30 per cent fruit, consuming a high quantity of mature leaves.
The average troop size of the primate is about 8-15 and they do not live in stable units but are composed of smaller subgroups that split and rejoin regularly.