Date:06/08/2008 URL:

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Captive-reared gibbon now finds forest mate

Kaziranga: It learnt to watch television, reacted to magazine pictures of food items, even ate with a spoon — but in the end went to live in the woods with a male partner.

Siloni, a female captive-reared hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock), was a success story of rehabilitation of the rare ape in India.

It was released into the wild after being reared in a temporary enclosure till sexual maturity. Now it has bonded with a male in the Kaziranga National Park.

“The animal has conceived and we are expecting the baby within a few months. Foresters are monitoring the movement of the couple and everything is normal,” park director Suren Buragohain said.

Rescued from temple

Siloni was rescued from a temple in Assam’s Golaghat district by Mr. Buragohain when he was Divisional Forest Officer there in 2003. “She was injured when I brought it from a priest. I took her to my home and nurtured it. She had developed acquaintance with humans as she had learnt to watch TV, react to pictures in books and even eat with a spoon,” he said.

Siloni was subsequently put in the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation in Kaziranga.

Later Siloni was transferred to a temporary enclosure in the release site in the adjacent Panbari Reserve about four months ago for acclimatisation before being released into the wild. The release site was selected after a study confirmed the presence of a lone male gibbon in the area.

The spacious enclosure was suspended under the canopy of a Ficus tree about 9 m above ground. Here, a male gibbon that wandered in from the wild eloped with it.

Lately, the pair was even observed mating through the enclosure mesh, providing cogent evidence to their successful pair-bonding, behaviour considered essential for the rehabilitation of mammals that live in pairs.

Habitat fragmentation has forced many gibbons in northeastern India to live in isolation, often without a mate, as in the case of the solitary male in the Panbari Reserve Forest.

Conservationists believe that Siloni’s successful rehabilitation could provide a strategy for the management of gibbons living without mates in the wild. — PTI

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