Microread 01: Phayre's Leaf Monkey

Updated: Oct 19


Courtesy: Conservation India

In a study, it was found that that the Lao People’s Democratic Republic had a very low population density of Phayre’s Leaf Monkey (Trachypithecus phayrei) contrasted to the other species of monkeys. Hunting of this monkey is intense in LPD and Laos, which is bringing some colonies of species to the brink of extinction. Phayre’s leaf monkey is classified as Endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. Phayre’s leaf monkey is also distributed in the moist evergreen forests of Thailand, Bangladesh, Burma, and the states of Tripura and Assam in Northeast India.

Phayre’s Leaf monkey has an insignificant pale-colored ring around the eyes. It does not occupy a habitat that is buried within the extensive closed-canopy forest but is recorded from forests with broken canopy and extensively tall bamboo. Observations from India and Myanmar stress the influence of tall bamboo plants in this species diet and the likelihood of this species being observed on tall bamboo stems. The utilization of degraded areas by the Phayre’s leaf monkey is well observed in India and surrounds. Most of the primary forest of Northeastern India has been converted to the secondary forest due to the prevalence of jhum or shifting agriculture adopted by the Adivasis. Due to this reason, the secondary forests have become the major habitat of Phayre’s Leaf Monkey.

The diet of this species of leaf monkey consisted of young and mature leaves, ripe and unripe fruits, seeds, petioles, flowers, and gums. As the name suggests, Phayre’s leaf monkey prefers leaves over any other part of the plant, including fruits. However, more preference is given to young leaves and not mature leaves.

The replacement of primary forests with secondary forests reduces plant species diversity. This also causes invasive species to take over the indigenous evergreen species which narrows the diet of these monkeys. The loss of canopy continuity also threatens the population of this species like any other arboreal species. This might also cause dominance of another primate species which is much more well adapted to the novel habitat thereby, endangering the already low population of the Phayre’s leaf monkey. However, it is to be kept in mind that If patches of primary forests are present as a seed bank for the regeneration of the secondary forest, this species still has chances of maintaining a healthy population. But, if the regeneration cycle is shortened, coppice growth and accumulation of woody biomass might not be adequate to provide both food and canopy contiguity for this species. Moreover, small patches of primary forests are more vulnerable to degradation and shifting cultivation thus their role as a seed bank may be jeopardized leading to further impoverishment of the secondary forest which invades areas that are left fallow after cultivation.


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REFERENCE

[1] Timmins, R. J., Duckworth, J. W., Hansel, T. E., & Robichaud, W. G. (2013). The conservation status of Phayre's leaf monkey Trachypithecus phayrei in Lao PDR. Primate Conservation26(1), 89-101.

[2] Gupta, A. K., & Kumar, A. (1994). Feeding ecology and conservation of the Phayre's leaf monkey Presbytis phayrei in northeast India. Biological Conservation69(3), 301-306.

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