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Railways to build canopy bridges across track in Assam gibbon habitat

Why is it in the news?

  • The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has earmarked funds to construct canopy bridges for India’s only ape to move across a railway track bifurcating its prime habitat in eastern Assam.

More about the news:

  • Canopy Bridge Proposal –
  • NFR, in consultation with the Assam State Forest Department, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and other stakeholders, decided to install canopy bridges inside the sanctuary to facilitate gibbon movement across the track, separated by the Mariani-Dibrugarh railway track.
  • The railway track divides the 2,098.62-hectare Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary in Jorhat district, Assam home to the highest concentration of hoolock gibbons.
  • The main goal of the canopy bridge is to restore habitat connectivity, enabling seamless movement for gibbons across the sanctuary’s divided sections.

About Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary:

  • previously called Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary or Hollongapar Reserve Forest, is a secluded protected evergreen forest in Assam’s Jorhat district, renamed on May 25, 2004.
  • Vegetation: The forest’s upper canopy is mainly Hollong trees, with Nahar trees in the middle canopy, and evergreen shrubs and herbs in the lower canopy.
  • Fauna: The sanctuary boasts diverse fauna, including India’s sole ape species, the western Hoolock, and the lone nocturnal primate in northeast India, the Bengal slow loris.
  • Other inhabitants include Stump-tailed macaques, northern pig-tailed macaques, eastern Assamese macaques, rhesus macaques, and capped langurs.
  • The habitat is threatened by illegal logging, encroachment of human settlements, and habitat fragmentation.

About Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock):     

  • Gibbons, Earth’s smallest and fastest apes, inhabit tropical and subtropical forests.
  • They represent one of the 20 gibbon species found worldwide.
  • The tailless Hoolock Gibbon, India’s sole ape species, is native to eastern Bangladesh, Northeast India, and Southwest China.
  • With an estimated population of 12,000, they primarily dwell in tall trees like hollong, displaying intelligence, distinct personalities, a throat sac used for vocalizations and tight family ties.
  • Threats include habitat loss, fragmentation, and hunting.
  • The Hoolock Gibbon is categorized into two types/pecies in India:
  • Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock):
  • It inhibits in all the states of the north-east, restricted between the south of the Brahmaputra River and east of the Dibang River. Outside India, it is found in eastern Bangladesh and north-west Myanmar.
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List (IUCN): Endangered
  • Eastern Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock leuconedys):
  • It inhabits specific pockets of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in India, and in southern China and north-east Myanmar outside India.
  • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
  • In India, both species are listed on Schedule 1 of the Indian (Wildlife) Protection Act 1972.

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