Saturday, July 4, 2009

March of the monkey brigade

The annual Sorimuthian festival in KMTR on the banks of Tambaraparani , attracts people in large numbers, young and old alike. This attraction has been so strong that it has become a tradition to pay a visit to the temple annually for the people of Alamgulam. They come in large numbers like the annual mass migration towards food resources by the wildebeest in the
Serengeti plains of Africa.

Such resource driven mass migrations though very rare in our country occur at various instances; Be it pigs, dogs and scavenging birds congregating at garbage and offal dumping sites, movement of ant colonies towards food resources and the rising of dark clouds of mosquitoes from paddy fields and moving into villages and cattle sheds.
A similar incidence was observed during the Sorimuthian festival too. There was a sudden increase in the number of house and jungle crows, occurrence of large troupes of bonnet macaques, going up to 60 individuals, wild pigs numbering up to 16 in a herd, and the occurrence of house cockroaches amongst various other road killed forest organisms, around the temple. Camera traps we set up at strategic locations around the temple before and after the festival captured just one or two pigs and no bonnet macaques at all and at the same time, the mammal occupancy surveys showed a low number of the apes and pigs and there were hardly any crows to count before and after the festival where as, during the festival, there was a sudden increase in the number of pigs, bonnet macaques and crows around the temple and they were captured by the camera traps while feeding on garbage and waste food dumped in the forest by pilgrimsThe only way the increase in abundance is possible is by the movement of animals into the temple area from various other parts largely to capitalize on the abundant food resources in the form of waste food and garbage, generated in large quantities but ineffectively disposed. Though the scavenging animals were efficient in clearing some amount of the waste, they face the risk of death as they might feed on the plastic which got in un-noticed, and fall sick due to the consumption of food which they normally not used to eating.
More intensive studies in future may yield information about the origin and the local migration route these opportunistic creatures take to reach the temple, the pressures on the local habitat due to the intrusion in large numbers and the impact on the health of these animals will become clear.

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