Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 85 – The Purple-faced Langurs


Purple-faced langur, in Athurugiriya, near Colombo, Sri Lanka

Courtesy: Jeroen at Sri Lanka Blog

“Our treatment of animals will someday be considered barbarous. There cannot be perfect civilization until man realizes that the rights of every living creature are as sacred as his own”
David Starr Jordan

These poor little monkeys are now mistakenly swinging on power cables instead of vines. Needless to say, they don’t last very long! They are also getting hit by cars on roads – again, it goes without saying, they are not very familiar with traffic!  But, they have lost their own habitat due to man and are now forced to live in close proximity to the same.  

Next, conflict arises as man declares the monkeys a nuisance for stealing his crops – a common local pest, in fact.   Failing to take into account that he has stolen the home and food supply of the animals, he then sets about persecuting them.  And, just to exacerbate matters in this   ‘man versus monkey’ war, through this forced move, the purple-faced langurs have become more tolerant of human beings, and, as a result, have made themselves easy targets.

Western purple-faced langur  by Steve Garvie

There are four species of purple-faced langur in Sri Lanka, and all are endangered, one of them critically.  They have been fiercely driven out of their natural forest habitat and forced to find food within the gardens and rubber plantations of the invaders, which they now depend upon for their survival.  The food they are now  eating through necessity is far from adequate for these monkeys.  They, like several other species, have specialized stomachs which use symbiotic bacteria to aid digestion.  In their natural habitat, much of their nutrients and energy are derived from the complex carbohydrates contained in leaves.  Now, they must rely on cultivated fruits which are loaded with simple sugars and are difficult to absorb.

No two sub-species of purple-faced langurs are the same – their coats and cranial features vary. But, overall we can see a dark-brown to black colour on the body, legs and arms. The species sports pale to dark whiskers which sweep backwards.  Contrary to their name, they do not have purple faces – more of a grey-black colour.  They all have long arms and reduced thumbs.  Males can reach a body length of twenty-five inches, with a much longer tail length of thirty-three inches.  They can weigh up to twenty-one pounds. Females, as you would expect, tend to be slightly smaller.

Purple-faced langurs live for a quite a long time, and life spans of twenty-six years have been recorded as normal.Western purple-faced langur

Also known as purple-faced leaf monkeys, these primates have a one-male social system, very occasionally two, with a ratio of one male to one to seven females and assorted juveniles and infants.  The male will defend this group, or troop, aggressively against other males coming attempting to encroach.

There are also all-male groups consisting of anything between two and fourteen individuals.  These groups will forage separately in daylight and regroup at night to sleep.

The purple-faced langurs use three loud forms of communication; whoops, barks and residuals.  These sounds are used to alert others to predators, in defence of the group and its territory, attract suitable mates, and locate other members of the troop.  Adult males tend to be the loudest and most vociferous.  These vocalisations help conservationists, who have difficulty seeing the monkeys in the trees, to identify the species.

Western purple-faced langur with infantThere is little information about the breeding season of the purple-faced langurs available.  I suspect this may be because it is an all year round occurrence.  There is a gestation period of up to two hundred and ten days, after which one infant will be born, weighing just under one pound.  The infant’s coats are a contrast to their parents in that they are pale grey with a brownish tinge on the top of the head, arms, legs and chest.  The little ones start to eat solid food at about twelve weeks and will be fully weaned by eight months.

Natural Habitat
In general;  monsoon scrub, dry evergreen forests, mature secondary forest, undisturbed cloud forest, montane tropical forest and semi-deciduous forest.  Each sub-species has its own preference.
Where
Sri Lanka
The southern lowland purple-faced langur (Trachypithecus vetulus vetulus) lives in the rainforests of southern Sri Lanka.
The western purple-faced langur (Trachypithecus vetulus nestor) inhabits the wet zone of western Sri Lanka.
The northern purple-faced langur (Trachypithecus vetulus philbricki) can be found in the north and east of Sri Lanka, in the dry zones.
And, the bear monkey, or montane purple-faced langur, (Trachypithecus vetulus monticola), occupies the mountains of central Sri Lanka.

What they eat
They are mainly folivorous, but, as needs must, will eat fruit, flowers and seeds (from gardens).
Threats
Loss of habitat is the greatest threat to these little primates. Because of this, they are simply not getting enough of the right food any more. There are various reasons for habitat loss, depending on the area the primates are located in, but, collectively the reasons are rapid urbanization, selective logging, encroachment for agriculture, and development for infrastructure and industry.  Occasionally, in the north-east, they have fallen victim to cyclones.  Hunting is also a  threat, either for the pet trade, subsistence or the bushmeat market (this is not a significant amount). Skins are used, by some, to make tribal drums. They are electrocuted by power lines and hit by cars on the roads.  Human conflict over crops and encounters with dogs are also becoming far too common.
Status: Endangered
Three sub-species of purple-faced langurs (Trachypithecus vetulus) are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered. The sub-species western purple-faced langur (Trachypithecus vetulus nestor) is listed as Critically Endangered, and, is also classified as one of The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2012-2014.  All purple-faced langur species are listed on CITES Appendix II.

Juvenile purple-faced leaf langur  kept as a petExact population numbers are unknown, but it is widely acknowledged these once highly prevalent monkeys are declining at an alarming rate.  Various agencies are working to minimise the threats to the purple-faced langurs, such as building corridors and rope bridges within protected areas.

A few southern lowland purple-faced langur (critically endangered) are known to be kept in captivity.

 

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 39 – The Javan Slow Loris


Javan slow loris

Photo by Iing Iryantoro

Description
Often referred to as the gremlins of the jungle, these adorable creatures are being subjected to the most wanton cruelty imaginable.  Heartless illegal pet traders, who not only wrench them away from their families and natural environment, are gratuitously ripping their teeth out with wire clippers or cutting them down with nail clippers (in order to protect themselves from being bitten), causing untold anxiety and other complications. Often this leads to a slow and painful death with few making it to their intended destinations.

Some animals have been confiscated from illegal traders, and, in some cases, returned to the wild.  However, those who have had their teeth extracted are unable to defend themselves in their natural environment.  Per force, these unfortunate creatures must remain in captivity for the rest of their lives.

Remarkably (and apparently the reason for such cruel acts as teeth cutting), this shy little creature is the only living primate with a toxic bite.  And, in self-defence, it does bite.  It produces an oily substance from a gland in the elbow which, when mixed with saliva becomes poisonous.  There is no antidote for the poison, consequently locals have described it as being more dangerous than the leopard.

The Javan slow loris is nocturnal and arboreal,  moving slowly across vines and lianas in quadrupedal mode and  sleeping on exposed branches.  When foraging for food, baby lorises are left clinging to the branches alone.  All of these things render the species vulnerable to capture, and unscrupulous humans have been very quick to take advantage of this.

Javan slow lorises can be distinguished by their facial markings and features; long marks from the sides of the mouth to the top of the head, a white central stripe from the nose to the forehead, and huge, bulging brown eyes.  They also have soft, silky fur and human-like hands with opposable thumbs.  The tail is no more than a stump and is hidden by fur. They weigh in at less than two kilos, when fully grown, and can reach a length of roughly thirteen inches.

Little is known about the mating activities of the Javan slow loris in the wild.  Whatever sparse information there is available, has come from observations of those kept in captivity, and is as follows:  they give birth to a single infant  (all 50 grams of it!)  after a gestation period of just over six months.  Both parents take turns to carry the infant. Infants are weaned at five to six months of age.

I may be preaching to the converted, but the best way to help these lovely little creatures is by not supporting the pet trade market and buying one to take home.

Habitat
Both primary and secondary forest including bamboo forest; mangroves and various plantations (especially cocoa).
Where
Western and central Java  (Indonesia)
What they eat
Sap, flowers, fruit, insects, small mammals such as lizards, and birds and bird’s eggs.
Threats
The illegal exotic pet trade, hunting for research in traditional medicine and severe loss of habitat. The illegal pet trade is now the main cause of the decline of the species.
Status: Endangered
The Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.  It is also listed on CITES Appendix I.  International Animal Rescue  has established a facility specialising in the care of the slow loris in Ciapus, West Java. [1] Many other organisations, too numerous to mention here,  are also involved in the care and protection of this species. Although fully protected by Indonesian law, the illegal pet trade continues to flourish and enforcement of the laws is very lax.

“Human nature will find itself only when it fully realizes that to be human it has to cease to be beastly or brutal”
Mahatma Gandhi

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 38 – The Bengal Tiger


Bengal tiger

Photography by Nikolay Tonev

Description
One of the most persecuted creatures on the planet,  the Bengal tiger is also one of the most beautiful.  But greed and misguided myths are pushing the species to the brink of extinction.  Notwithstanding, it is still the most numerous tiger sub-species.

The Bengal tiger is a powerful killing machine.  One reported kill demonstrated this power when a Bengal took down, killed and dragged away a gaur  –  the largest living bovine.  These beasts weigh over a ton, so that’s quite some feat.  Bengals, like other tigers, hunt at night, killing their prey by severing the spinal cord, via a bite to the nape of the neck, or suffocating the prey by a bite to the throat.  Death is usually quick and painless.  Once dead, the prey is dragged to cover for consumption.  Tigers can gorge their way through sixty pounds of meat in one go.  If any is left, they cover the kill and save it for later.  Not known for their efficiency in hunting, they need to get as much down as possible before the next meal, which may elude them for several days.  They also have the longest canine teeth of any extant big cat, three to four inches.

They are swift runners, excellent swimmers, hugely successful climbers and can leap great distances of over thirty feet.  Like domestic cats, they purr.  Purring can either denote happiness or pain.  Their almighty roar can be heard over a distance of two miles, allowing for communication with other tigers.

The largest of all living cats, there is no doubt these animals are a considerable size.  The male of the species can grow to ten feet in length and weigh up to six hundred and fifty pounds.  The females are slightly smaller and less heavy.  The unique appearance makes the tiger instantly recognisable. It has an orange coat with black stripes (no two have exactly the same stripes) and white patches on the face and neck with a white underside.

There is no specific mating season for tigers, it’s an all year round event, but November to April seems quite popular. The gestation period is one hundred and three days, after which a litter of up to six cubs are born.  Sadly, there is a very high mortality rate within the first year of their lives.  Those that do make it will stay with their mothers until they are about eighteen months old.

Habitat
Both tropical and subtropical rainforests, deciduous forests and scrub forests, alluvial grasslands and mangroves.
Where
Most are found in India with lesser populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar.
What they eat
Larger prey such as deer and wild cattle, and smaller hoofed prey including antelope, wild pigs and boar.  Though not strictly part of their natural diet, they have also been known to eat humans.
Threats
Poaching:  The tiger has been slaughtered for centuries because, according to the tenets of Chinese medicine, their bones and other parts have extensive healing properties.  As a result they are in high demand.  Skins are traded on the black market and fetch a considerable amount, as do the body parts.   Habitat loss due to illegal logging and plantations building is also playing a large part in their dwindling numbers.  Human/tiger conflict arises frequently.
Status: Endangered

The Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered, and on  Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora  (CITES).   In the 1970s game reserves were created.  These worked well for a short period of time and numbers became more stable. But, the potential profit involved in poaching is so great, it took hold once more, putting the Bengal at risk again.  Unless extensive and robust support is put in place, this species will no longer survive in the wild.   The World Bank is currently, amongst others, addressing this and making a significant contribution to the future of tigers in general.

“The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else”
Barry Commoner

Recommended reading:   As Tigers Near Extinction, a Last-ditch Strategy Emerges

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 37 – The Andean Cat


Andean cat

Source: The Andean Cat Alliance

Description
There are those who are eaten to the brink of extinction and those who are hunted for profit to the brink of extinction.  Then there is the rare Andian cat;  hunted and killed to the edge for religious ceremonies and beliefs.  Like the pampas cat, they are considered sacred and offered up accordingly. The Andean cat, whom I daresay far from appreciates this, is also considered to be one of the most endangered felids on the planet.  Despite this;  they are still killed, stuffed and skinned.

These animals occupy a very inhospitable environment.  They blend in well with the terrain, are not much bigger than a domestic cat and are sparsely distributed. Consequently, sightings have been as rare as the creature itself, and knowledge is limited.

Small, sturdy and furry, the coat is silver-grey with brown stripes and orange blotches. The pale underside is strewn with dark spots.  The tail is long, thick and fluffy with dark rings.  The Andean cat is possibly solitary, although adults have been recorded in pairs. Birth is thought to occur between October and April. Only two litters have ever been observed, both with two young.

Originally, the major prey species of the Andian cat was mountain chinchilla.  Then a huge demand arose for the fur of these sweet little animals.  This led to the chinchilla being almost hunted to extinction as well, and the Andian cat being deprived of its food base. Through necessity, mountain vizcacha became its major prey.  The Andean’s nocturnal habits are now thought to be related to this change and the feeding habits of mountain vizcachas.  This was a classic case of having to adapt rapidly or perish.

Habitat
Rocky, arid and semi-arid, and sparsely vegetated zones of the high Andes above the tree-line.
Where
The Andes mountains, through Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru.
What they eat
Mountain viscachas and mountain chinchillas, when they can get them.
Threats
Hunting for traditional practises (stuffed cats and skins are used in religious ceremonies in the belief they will bring good fortune).  Loss of natural prey.  Hunting for food, and for traditional medicine in central Peru, and hunting for pelts.  They are also often killed in retaliation for loss of small livestock.  Destruction of habitat by extensive mining, resource extraction for fuel and cattle grazing.  Disease from domestic animals. 
Status: Endangered
The Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.   Only 2,500 are believed to be still alive, and there are no known Andean cats in captivity.   Significant efforts are being made by various non-profit making organisations to help protect and preserve this species, and laws in all four South American countries, where the Andean cat is present, have been passed  accordingly.   Each country now has protected areas where hunting is banned.

To update this post, I would like to add a link to another post about the Andean cat.  This is a wonderful article by Carmen Mandel. I can highly recommend taking a look, especially at the updated images and videos.  The Elusive Gato Andino

“Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to a man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures”
The Dalai Lama

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 36 – The Dama Gazelle


Dama gazelle

Photo: Tim Wacher / Sahara Conservation Fund

Description
After suffering a severe decline in recent years, the dama gazelle is now only found running wild in Chad, Mali and Niger.  They are one of the most threatened species in Africa.  Shockingly, these critically endangered animals can also be found on various ranches in the United States, where they are offered up specifically for hunting down again. On one particular ranch, for $10,000,  “whether safari style, spot and stalk, or sitting patiently in a blind, you’ll experience the ultimate African game hunt right here in Texas”. This is far from the only ranch offering this ‘service’.  Only three hundred left in the wild and these people are killing them for entertainment  –  Beggars belief!

Damas are diurnal and also tend to need more water than many desert animals, but they can withstand reasonably long periods of drought.  They also have the cute habit of ‘pronking’ when they sense danger.  This involves bouncing up and down on all fours so their legs all leave the ground together and land again in the same way.  They are also very fleet of foot.   And, they are not slouches when it comes to feeding.  In order to take advantage of all the available food, these gazelles stand on their hind legs to reach the higher leaves.

The highly nomadic, and astonishingly beautiful, dama gazelle is the tallest and largest of all the gazelles, reaching almost four feet at the shoulder and weighing in at anything up to one hundred and sixty-five pounds.  The elegant body is supported by long, thin legs, and the neck is slender and graceful.  Both sexes sport s-shaped horns, with the male’s being larger and thicker.

Damas live in mixed herds consisting of fifteen to twenty animals. During the breeding season, March to June, the males establish their territory, ousting out all other males. Following which the gestation period lasts six and a half months.  Normally females give birth to only one calf/fawn at a time, which will be weaned by six months.

These animals are perfectly designed to cope with the hot conditions of the desert. Their white and rusty-red coats reflect sunlight whilst their long legs offer more surface area to the body.  These surface areas disseminate more heat and help them stay cool.  Their legs and underparts are white to reflect heat from the hot desert sand, and, with their extraordinary length, the legs keep the body raised high above ground level.

Habitat
In the dry season, they wander the grasslands, sparsely wooded savanna and sub-desert steppes of the Sahel region, where acacia trees are dominant.  In the wet season, they migrate north to the stony plains and plateaux of the Sahara Desert.
Where
Central and west Africa – Mainly Chad and Niger, with a few still in Mali.
What they eat
Leaves (particularly acacia leaves), coarse desert grasses and fruit.
Threats
Uncontrolled, excessive mechanised hunting by Arab hunting parties, military personnel and nomads.  Habitat loss and degradation, and grazing of domestic animals.  Natural predators include  lion, hyena, cheetah, leopard and jackal.
Status: Critically Endangered
In all, there are probably no more than 300 dama  (Nanger dama) gazelles  in the wild today.  The species is listed on CITES Appendix I and has been placed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.  According to a report issued by the IUCN in 2009, a quarter of all antelope species are threatened with extinction, and the dama gazelle is one of the five species of antelope in the highest category of threat.

“Deer hunting would be fine sport, if only the deer had guns” **
William S. Gilbert

**Although gazelle and deer are not strictly related, I felt this quote was appropriate.

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 35 – The Humphead Wrasse


Humphead wrasse

Photo: Jeff Rotman / WWF

Description
The humphead wrasse is one of the ocean’s most spectacular sights.  Despite this, it has become a plated delicacy for indiscriminate diners.  This huge fish, it can grow up to seven feet in length and weigh in at anything in the region of four hundred and twenty pounds, is being hunted mercilessly for its flesh.

But, looking at a wild creature and saying,  “I don’t care how many of you are left  –  I think you’re really tasty, so I’m going to eat you anyway”  –  is just not acceptable.  So, if you see it on the menu  –  order something else. Thankfully, this is a recognised fact and, for this and other reasons for concern, the humphead wrasse has now become widely protected. Needless to say, they are still taken and killed despite the penalties.

They are sedentary creatures who, resting in caves at night, are highly vulnerable to unscrupulous divers and fishermen.  At night, scuba divers are able to sneak up on them unawares, using flash-lights, and simply take them or kill them.  Fishermen use cyanide, stunning them for capture.  The humphead wrasse is one of the most expensive live reef fishes in the world.  This species cannot be hatchery reared, meaning all those traded come from the wild population, making trade restrictions especially important.

It is often solitary, but has been seen in small social groups consisting of a limited number of male, females and juveniles.  Humphead wrasses possess a remarkable immunity to the toxic spines of starfish, boxfish and sea hares.

An adult humphead wrasse can change its colour, the shape of its body, and even its sex. Which it has been known to do when there has been an absence of the opposite sex.

Habitat
Steep outer reef slopes, channel slopes, lagoon reefs up to 300 feet in depth. Juveniles seem to prefer staghorn coral thickets, seagrasses and bushy macroalgae.
Where
They are widely distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific region, though nowhere are they common.
What they eat
Mainly molluscs, fishes, sea urchins and crustaceans.  With their sharp, hard teeth, they are also known to prey upon the toxic crown-of-thorns starfish, boxfish and sea hares.
Threats
Habitat loss and degradation, spear-fishing at night with scuba gear, illegal fishing, destructive fishing techniques, including the use of sodium cyanide and dynamite, and intensive capture for the Live Reef Food Fish Trade (LRFFT) (the use of cyanide has been found to be the most efficient way to take the wrasse, which is not only directly detrimental to the wrasse but also has a devastating effect on the coral which they depend on for shelter).  As a food, the flesh of the humphead wrasse is highly sought after.  Dwindling numbers are pushing the price up causing a further decline in numbers. Capture for the export trade in juvenile humphead wrasse for the marine aquarium trade is also a large problem.
Status: Endangered
The humphead wrasse was placed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered in 2004 and was listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in October 2004.
The WWF is working with others to attempt to re-populate the coral reefs with this extraordinary species. Live fish, captured for resale by local fishermen, have been bought back by the WWF and released into the wild. Almost nine hundred have been returned to their natural environment, by this method, since 2010.
IUCN Groupers and Wrasses Specialist Group aims to raise awareness throughout the region. In many areas this fish is now protected.

“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace”
Albert Schweitzer

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 34 – Tonkin snub-nosed monkey


Tonkin snub-nosed monkey

Photo: Tilo Nadler

Description
The elusive Tonkin snub-nosed monkey was believed to be extinct until 1989 when a small population was found in Na Hang District in Tuyen Quang Province of Vietnam.  Later, in 2002, Fauna and Flora International discovered a further population in Ha Giang Province.

This delightful monkey is diurnal and almost exclusively arboreal; but has been known to occasionally take to the forest floor.  Sightings of these enigmatic creatures has been rare, so information is sketchy.

The basic social unit is known to be a one-male to several females ratio along with  some young . Other males form all-male groups.  Unfortunately, when groups are approached by humans they tend not to run away, which makes them easy targets for hunters.  Though the meat is considered “bad tasting” it does not stop them being killed and consumed.  They do, however, have a range of alarm and other calls, from the soft “huu chhhk” and “hoo”, to the rapid-fire “chit”, so others are warned of impending danger.

Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys are the largest of Vietnam’s primate population and have black hands and feet; black back fur and black outer sides of limbs.  The inner side of the limbs tends to be a creamy colour along with backs of legs, face and elbows.  They also have adorable, also human, pink lips and stunning blue-rimmed eyes.

Habitat
Tropical evergreen forests containing steep karst limestone hills and mountains
Where
Northern Vietnam
What they eat
Leaf stems and young leaves, unripe fruits, flowers and seeds
Threats
Aggressive  deforestation; illegal logging, cultivation for domestic use, collection of fuel-wood, the gathering of other forest products,  grazing of domestic cattle and intensive hunting.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus) is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as Critically Endangered on their IUCN Red List. The species is also listed on The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates – 2006 to 2008. **   It is thought there are less than 200 Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys left on the planet.   Various agencies are working to rectify the issue of habitat destruction and hunting in Khau Ca is controlled. Not so in Quan Ba, where it still poses a threat despite Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys being protected under CITES Appendix I and Group IB Decree 32/2006 of the Vietnamese law.  Whatever the conservation tactics, at the moment the future of this unusual primate still hangs very much in the balance. 

** Titled “Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates–2006–2008”, the report compiled by 60 experts from 21 countries warns that failure to respond to the mounting threats now exacerbated by climate change will bring the first primate extinctions in more than a century. Overall, 114 of the world’s 394 primate species are classified as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List. [1]

“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers but borrowed from his children”
John James Audubon