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India's Primate Species Are in Danger

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    17th May, 2022
  • About the species
  • Conservation status
  • Threats
  • What are primates?
  • Why the species is in danger?
    • Deforestation
    • Habitat loss
    • Urbanization
    • Human-animal conflict
  • Why are they in Danger?
  • What measures required?
  • Conclusion


Scientists from the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) in Coimbatore recently carried out a survey of Slender loris population in Tamil Nadu’s Dindigul forest division.


The species (Case in Point)

  • The gray slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus) belongs to the family Loridae.
  • It is a species of
  • Appearance: The slender loris has got a lean and lanky appearance, with longer and slender limbs, larger ears, pointed snout and eyes circled with black or dark brown. The fur is soft and woolly. The colour varies from dark grey to earthy brown.
  • Habitat: Slender Loris generally inhabits dry and drought-prone areas of Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu. It is found in acacia and tamarind-dominated thorn and scrub forests near cultivated fields.
    • Of the six species of Lorisinae, the Loris lydekkerianusis found in and around the Ayyalur, Alagarkovil, Manapparai, Sirumalai and Kadavur areas in Tamil Nadu.
  • The slender loris is a nocturnal animal. It is also a slow-moving animal.
  • Though it is insectivorous, it is fond of lantana berries also. It eats insects, dragonflies, lizards, eggs, small birds and tree frogs.
  • Conservation status:
    • It is considered endangered according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
    • It is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  • Threats:
    • The loris has become threatened mainly because of habitat loss.
    • The disappearance of the acacia tree, a preferred tree species of the loris, hunting for the pet trade and for their meat, road kills, superstitious kills, traditional medicine and habitat fragmentation pose serious threats to this primate.

What are Primates?

  • A primate is any member of the biological order Primates, the group that contains all the species commonly related to the lemurs, monkeys, and apes, with the latter category including humans.
  • Primates can be loosely defined as mammals with opposable thumbs, but they come in all sizes and dispositions
  • According to fossil records, primates originated in the Late Cretaceous (97.5 to 66.4 million years ago) as forest-dwelling creatures. 
  • Primates are found all over the world.
  • The Primates order is divided informally into three main groupings:
    • Prosimians
    • Monkeys of the New World
    • Monkeys and apes of the Old World

Why the species is in danger?

  • Deforestation: Extensive deforestation and habitat fragmentation continue at alarming rates throughout the world, and the survival of innumerable forest species, mainly in the tropics, is in jeopardy.
  • Habitat loss: Habitat loss is the principal threat to wild primate populations.
  • Urbanization: With staggering rate of urbanization, not only their habitat is being lost or fragmented, but many of the primates’ populations find themselves in anthropogenic habitat, more now than ever before. 
  • Human-animal conflict: Primates may also be killed when they raid and damage crops; this is especially true for the rhesus macaque in most of Northeast India. 
  • Hunting: Hunting is a threat even more severe than forest destruction in some of the more remote areas.
    • Although hunting is prohibited by the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 (amended in 1993), its enforcement is often very difficult in remote areas and even local communities are unaware of the regulations.
  • Others
    • Burning and clearing of tropical forests
    • Hunting of primates for food
    • Illegal wildlife trade
    • climate change
    • increasing disease

Important Primate Species in danger

Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock)

  • IUNC Redlist Status: Endangered
  • The only ape species found in the Indian subcontinent, Hoolock Gibbons are further classified into Western and Eastern Hoolock Gibbons, depending on their range.
  • Western Hoolock Gibbons are found throughout northeast India, in regions between the south of the Brahmaputra river and east of Dibang river where they reside in forests.

Arunachal Macaque (Macaca munzala)

  • IUCN Redlist Status: Endangered
  • The Arunachal Macaque is seen in parts of western Arunachal Pradesh.
  • They were first discovered in 2005 by researchers.
  • They are known to exist in broad-leaf forests near human-occupied spaces in the state.

Lion-tailed Macaque (Macaca silenus)

  • IUCN Redlist Status: Endangered
  • Endemic to the Western Ghats, Lion-tailed Macaques prefer to live in the canopy of tropical evergreen rainforests. 

Phayre's Leaf Monkey (Trachypithecus phayrei)

  • IUCN Redlist Status: Endangered
  • Identified by the distinct white rings around their eyes, Phayre’s Leaf Monkeys were once found throughout the northeastern part of India and in parts of Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh and China.
  • Due to habitat loss, they are now seen in fragmented patches in the states of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura.

Kashmir Gray Langur (Semnopithecus ajax)

  • IUCN Redlist Status: Endangered
  • Also known as the Himalayan Gray Langur, the Kashmir Gray Langur is one of the least studied langur species.
  • They are endemic to the western Himalayas, where they are now present within a 500km range in the Chamba district. 
  • Gee’s Golden Langur (Trachypithecus geei)
  • IUCN Redlist Status: Endangered
  • The primate is found in Western Assam and the neighbouring country of Bhutan and is considered sacred by many people. 
  • Bengal Slow Loris (Nycticebus bengalensis)
  • IUCN Redlist Status: Endangered
  • Bengal Slow Lorises are shy and nocturnal animals that reside in the forest patches of northeast India.
  • The arboreal slow loris prefers trees that release sap.

What measures are required?

  • Habitat protection: Since, forest loss is the principal threat to primates, habitat protection should be given habitat conservation priority
  • Awareness: Efforts should be made to raise awareness among communities living in these fringe areas.
  • Conservative actions: There are many different possible conservation actions for primates, like anti-poaching patrols, relocating animals, publicising conservation issues and reintroducing primates into their habitats. 


It is obvious that many primates are endangered by human actions and that great effort needs to be placed in conserving the forests they inhabit. Furthermore, this knowledge of the threats offers great opportunities for scientists to make significant contributions to primate conservation.

Practice Question

Q1. Discuss the existing threats to the Western Ghats in India. Suggest a sustainable strategy to maintain the ecological integrity of the Western Ghats.

Q2. Explain the significance of the Eastern Ghats for India. Suggest steps that can be taken to conserve the biodiversity of the region.


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