Thursday, 1 November 2007

A dead Western Purple-faced Leaf Monkey in my neighbour’s garden, 27 Mar, 2007.

Western Purple-faced Leaf Monkey
I fouund a dead "Western" Purple-faced Leaf Monkey Trachypithecus vetulus nestor, one of the world’s 25 endangered primates. It was a yong male, cut down in the prime of its life.

With bite marks in the thigh, I found its body in my neighbour’s garden. It also had bled from the mouth and nose—probably after internal bleeding resulted by the fall. This arboreal species is one of the three endemic primates in Sri Lanka (as far as it is currently known). The dominant males of this folivorous (leaf eating) species generally avoids full-blown fights with its opposite numbers in adjacent territories. Instead, when it comes to settling territorial issues, it relies on what primatologists call as "vocal distancing"—uttering far reaching calls that enable inter-group spacing. This is particularly useful given that the species is a leaf eater and the energy it extracts from such a leafy diet is minimal. This phenomenon is also manifested by Howler Monkey in South America and Colobus Monkey in Africa—both of which are noisy vegetarians.

When the females of this monkey turn "receptive," the dominant males turn aggressive especially towards the young males who may opportunistically try to mate with the females. These aggressive behavious are characterized by charging and chasing of young males, and at times, savage biting. As my area is a residential one with plenty of gaps between trees these charges expose the young males for greater dangers of falling off from trees while trying to flee in desperation. In numerous occassions, I have heard meaty thumps to see that a poor monkey has fallen off due to such chasings. I suspect that the nearest cause for death for this individual a bad fall. It’s not entirely surprising considering that my neighbour’s coconut trees are over 30 metres in height, and are well spaced out.

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