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Nilgiri langurs, what happened to them ?

Discussion in 'Europe - General' started by Onychorhynchus coronatus, 1 Jan 2021.

  1. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    I just came across the photo below taken by @Maguari in the zoochat gallery and looked up the species and checked on Zootierliste to see what zoos hold them.

    The species was apparently formerly kept by six German zoos (Berlin Tierpark, Berlin, Dresden, Duisburg, Erfurt and Hannover), however, unfortunately no zoos currently hold Semnopithecus johnii.
    [​IMG]
    This would strongly suggest that the individual shown in the photograph above from 2015 and taken at Thüringer Zoo Park Erfurt was one of the last individuals left.

    I have a few questions that I'd like to ask zoochatters who perhaps know more about the recent history of this species in German zoos :

    What happened to this species and why is it no longer held by any zoos ?

    Can anyone tell me more about the individual in the photograph and it's life history?

    Did something similar transpire to what occurred with the purple faced langur (i.e. phased out due to lack of interest by zoo management / curators , difficulty in breeding / maintaining / suitability for ex-situ and thoughts that it is better conserved in-situ etc) ?
     
    Last edited: 1 Jan 2021
  2. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    Surely some German readers will know more. I read that only one female with a male baby was recently imported from India. Several young were born from this incest mating, which lived and eventually died.

    Yet another threatened species which is not that difficult to keep and breed in human care, but too few were ever imported to make a viable population.

    I saw wild Nilgiri langurs in India, where they tolerate human presence quite well, but there is increasingly little forest to support them. I also saw the last langur in Erfurt, for about two seconds. I visited the zoo in winter, and the langur was off-show in his winter quarters. I stood there for some time, and it briefly opened the swinging door, looked outside, and disappeared back. I knew it will be probably my only sight of this species in human care ever.
     
    Last edited: 1 Jan 2021
  3. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Pretty much all of the Nilgiri langurs in European zoos originated from imports by the Bremen-based animal trader George Munro in the 1960s. Most of the specimens didn't survive for more than a few years in captivity, if at all more than a year. Back in the days (and to a certain, much more limited extent till today), Zoo Erfurt was one of the most successful zoos in keeping and breeding langurs and colobus monkeys. Including a famous Douc-Proboscis monkey hybrid and the last Ruwenzori colobus in an European zoo (he died in Erfurt in 2008). Erfurt received 2.1. Nilgiri monkeys from Munro in 1969. Both males died after a few years, but the female managed to live in Erfurt till the age of 31. In that time, she sired offspring four times when mated with her son (born in 1972 after successfully mating with one of the males before their deaths), of which two survived till 2016. Both were close to 30 years old at the time of their deaths and the last Nilgiri langurs in a zoo outside of their native range. The animal on the picture is one of these last two. I remember watching them and the Ruwenzori colobus quite wistfully each time I visited Erfurt.
    Due to Indians extraordinary red tape regarding the export of native species and the current lack of interest in keeping leaf-eating langurs in many European zoos, I doubt we'll see Nilgiri langurs again in Erfurt or any other European zoo (unless there's a daring Czech zoo. Or Pairi Daiza...) any time soon.
    Nilgiri-Langur - zootier-lexikon.org
     
    Last edited: 1 Jan 2021
  4. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for your comment @jurek ! Much appreciated !

    That is such a shame about there not having been enough imported to make a viable population and quite disturbing that the animals were breeding through incest matings.

    I suppose the effort to establish them ex-situ in Germany was sort of doomed from the start if the founding population was so limited both genetically and in numbers, really quite sad.

    Yes, exactly, they are a species of conservation concern so like the purple faced langur could well have justifiably been established ex-situ by zoos.
     
  5. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for your post @Batto! Much appreciated !

    This is such a sad story indeed as it appears that Erfurt zoo were in the early days really trying to establish this species ex-situ.

    It seems like the langurs had a great quality of life as a number of them lived up until their 30's which must be quite an advanced age for these primates.

    It is just such a shame that the founding population was so small and it wasn't possible for zoos to obtain more males and females from India to keep the species going genetically ex-situ.

    Of course it is up for debate whether it is better to conserve many primate species ex-situ within zoos or within the range country or indeed just simply in-situ. However, I for one would like to see zoos in Europe at least try to establish captive breeding programes for some species which it could be strongly argued require ex-situ.

    Nevertheless, I do think you are right with what you have said that zoos in the region are now far more risk averse and I do not think that most of them would really want to take on the challenge of these kinds of species.

    Sadly I believe that many zoos would instead prefer to stick to the well trodden path of keeping primates that are far easier to maintain (and far less endangered).
     
    Last edited: 1 Jan 2021
  6. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Not really, which explains the high mortality rates. In their later years, the langurs enjoyed a modern exhibit. Before that, the husbandry can be best described as an example of the so-called "bathroom tile style" epoch of zoo husbandry, aimed at easy sanitation.
     
  7. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps this initial high mortality rate was just because there wasn't enough known about the husbandry needs of this species.

    Lets face it both Old world and New world folivorous monkeys can be an enormous challenge to keep alive in captivity.

    I think that is the tragedy in this case really that just as the husbandry was improving the species died out, such a shame.
     
  8. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    Batto corrected me. I overlooked completely the first few individuals, and only started with the female-son pair.
    However, it is still true that after Erfurt built decent enclosures, these langurs lived long and well. There was simply not enough animals to keep breeding.

    @OC All primates should be conserved in situ, however increasingly many have simply too little habitat left in situ. Insurance population in zoos is necessary. Probably forever, or until some big change in their home range allows restoring large areas of natural habitat. Nilgiri langur is one of such species, although arguably other langurs and other primates need it even more urgently.
     
  9. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    This I absolutely agree with, all primates should indeed be conserved primarily (and wherever possible) in-situ and ex-situ should only ever really be a last resort after all other options have been exhausted.

    I think you are right about that, the Nilgiri langur is not currently quite as endangered as many other langur species in South and South-East Asia which would benefit much more from ex-situ.

    However, as an IUCN listed "vulnerable" species it isn't that far off being endangered in the wild.

    Of course in a worst case scenario if levels of poaching and habitat destruction continue unabated in the Western Ghats the need for captivity (whether within the range country of India or outside) will eventually become inevitable.
     
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  10. Cat-Man

    Cat-Man Well-Known Member

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    Why does India have such strict red-tape?