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Captive Breeding of Lion-tailed Macaque

The famous Mysore Zoo has initiated research work on coordinated captive breeding programme of lion-tailed macaque. In order to establish the basic behaviour pattern among these captive individuals, regular behaviour observation has been taken up. To understand the general social interactions of the individuals, focal animal sampling has already been carried out for each animal from morning to evening. Similarly, to understand the sexual interactions, focal behaviour sampling has been carried out and also adibitum notes have been maintained wherever required.

According to Shanthala Kumar, Research Assistant of the Zoo, the Mysore Zoo has three males and three females of lion-tailed macaque. During March 2003, one of the old male, Manja, died because of inguinal hernia and tetanus. Another male, Shashi, is aged and has physiological problem. Among females, two females, Priya and Nethra, are presumed to be old. Hence, they are not potential animals in the present breeding programme. As a result, only one potential adult male, Krishna, and one adult female, Shanthi, are available for breeding. Although all the three females were kept with the male from April 2003 onwards, only active social and sexual interaction was observed between Krishna and Shanthi.

However, the receptive female Shanthi, showing ‘cycling’ and mated by potential male Krishna, has not conceived. However, the data is not sufficient and need to be observed for several more cycling to conclude the potentiality of both the male and female. It is also necessary to examine the quality of the semen of Krishna, and the fecal sample for hormone analysis of Shanthi, through non-invasive method. It is also necessary to examine the uterus through scanning to assess her fertility status, Shanthala Kumar says, analyzing his study.

During May last, transponders were implanted to lion-tailed macaques in the Zoo. Transponders help in marking individuals for a life time, and this will help in identifying the particular animal for breeding, shifting, crating and in animal exchange programme, the researcher adds.

Southern India harbours two species of macaques – Bonnet macaque (macaca radiate) and Lion-tailed macaque (macaca silenus). Bonnet macaque is found in the whole of South India, whereas long-tailed macaque is restricted to a long narrow stretch of rain forests of Western Ghats. Lion-tailed macaque has been given the status of ‘endangered’, because of its limited range of distribution, low in numbers and loss of its habitant. Since rain forest was found to be good to grow coffee and tea, about 100 years ago, a large chunk of rain forest all along the Western Ghats was taken up for cultivation of tea and coffee. As a result, a large part of rain forest was lost and these plantations caused a habitat fragmentation. On account of this, lion-tailed macaque populations were isolated and depleted in numbers. In addition to plantations, various developmental activities like dam and road construction also resulted in habitat fragmentation. A total of 3,550 individuals of lion-tailed macaues are left in the natural habitat and are found in 2,500 sq. kms. of rain forests in the States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Their populations were divided into 49 sub-populations at eight geographical locations of these three Southern States.

Lion-tailed macaque spends most of its time at higher canopy of the forest, and primarily feeds on fruits and small animals. Since the availability of its food is limited and highly dispersed in the forest, they travel up to 1.5 kms in a day. Hence, the time spent on social activity is very little in natural habitat. The average group size of is about 18. Usually a group comprises of one adult male, five to six adult females and the rest small ones, including sub-adults. The sexual maturity of males is at the age of eight and in females at six years. The inter-birth interval is about 2.5 years. Hence, a single female may produce five to six off-springs in her whole life span.

Captive breeding has been recommended for species which are on the verge of extinction. If situation demands reintroduction or reestablishment in the natural habitat may also arise. In the case of lion-tailed macaque, it is necessary to have a viable captive breeding. Breeding has been successful in some zoos in America and Europe. Although in India 18 zoos have got lion-tailed macaques, only a few zoos have proper groups and breeding has been successful only in Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Vandalur, Tamil Nadu. This zoo has now initiated a coordinated breeding programme to pool these animals and establish captive breeding groups in Chennai, Trivandrum and Mysore Zoos, with financial support from the Central Zoo Authority of the Government of India, explains Shanthala Kumar.

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