Guwahati, Oct.26 : A visit to the Umananda Temple at Peacock Island near Guwahati offers a chance to see the endangered Golden langurs (Trachypithecus Geei), a rare species of primates. They have taken shelter in the compound here. Built by an Ahom king in 1594, the temple is devoted to Lord Shiva. It is today visited by scores of such tourists who come here particularly for these rare monkeys and enjoy spending time with them.
At this temple, the Hindu gods and goddesses are engraved on the rock walls. These sculptures represent the craftsmanship of the Assamese artisans.
One has to cross the Brahamputra river in a boat to reach this temple. The boat service is available from the Kachari Ghat. There is also a ferry service, available from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
During the Hindu festival of Shivaratri, every year the devotees from all parts of Assam and other parts of India come to this place to pay homage to Lord Shiva.
Most of the visitors click their photographs of which these monkeys appear to have become habitual. And, they look quite conscious when they are being clicked for photographs. The devotees visiting the temple lure them with food and fruits.
Golden Langurs are also known as the golden leaf monkey, as they generally survive on leaves and fruits.
According to a local priest, it's been 35 years when two monkeys here were brought from Nepal. Their number has risen to eight today.
"Here we have eight golden langurs. You don't get these golden langurs everywhere. You get it in our Assam zoo. It was brought here from Nepal. Two of them were brought and now there are eight. Their birth rate is very slow, as it took 35 years to have eight monkeys," said Bipin Sharma, a priest.
These langurs are quite friendly in nature and manage to win visitors' hearts by shaking hands with them most of the time.
"I have found that these langurs are very-very versatile. Visiting children like these langurs, who look to be observing everyone and following onlookers' movements. But they never harm anyone. We believe there is need to provide proper facilities for these monkeys here," said Yogesh Parmar, a visitor.
But the forest officials rue the fact that despite so many years the number has increased as it should be. They suggest enabling these primates to live in their natural habitat.
"People love these golden langurs a lot because primates have a habit of being friendly, when you feed them. We never want that an animal should live in the human habitation. Animal should stay in wilderness. Then only this population will have some hope in future. Otherwise, because of inbreeding, this population might get extinct or there may be many deformities," said Narayan Mahanta, Divisional Forest Officer at the Assam State Zoo in Guwahati.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the golden langurs as endangered.
Though the golden langur is one of the uncommon primates on earth, it was spotted only in the 1920s.
The Assam forest officials along with a few non-government organizations have started various programmes to conserve these primates and one among them is breeding the golden langurs in captivity. By Peter Alex Todd