Outforia Quicktake: Key Takeaways
- Golden langurs are critically endangered monkeys found in Bhutan and India.
- They are elusive and secretive, making them difficult to study.
- Their primary food source is leaves, and they live in a variety of forested habitats.
- Golden langurs have a relatively low reproduction rate and live in groups.
- The main threat to their survival is human activity, including habitat loss and fragmentation.
The golden langur is one of the most critically endangered monkeys in the world.
These canopy creatures have a limited distribution in India and Bhutan. The elusive lifestyle of golden langurs has made it very difficult for researchers to closely study them.
With their long, golden fur, golden langurs are pretty easy to spot. However, they’re extremely shy and avoid humans when possible. Keep reading to learn about one of the rarest monkeys living in Southeast Asia and their unique characteristics.
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Golden Langur Classification
Golden langurs (Trachypithecus geei) belong to the Primates order and the suborder Haplorhini. They’re also formally called gee’s golden langur. Traditional monkeys and apes fall under the infraorder Simiiformes.
Golden langurs are classified as Old World monkeys, or the family Cercopithecidae.
Due to their elusiveness, golden langurs have been placed under different genuses in the past. They were initially in the genus Presbytis. This includes leaf monkey and surilis species.
Their classification was then changed to the genus Semnopithecus. This genus includes gray and Hanuman langurs, which are close relatives.
They now belong to the genus Trachypithecus. This category of monkeys includes lutungs, langurs, and leaf monkeys mainly found in Southeast Asia.
It was determined in a 2003 study that golden langurs have a subspecies. The scientific name for the species is Trachypithecus geei bhutanesis.
Its name comes from the origin where the new species was first described in northern Bhutan. The subspecies is thought to be a hybrid between golden langurs and capped langurs.
Characteristics and Appearance
Golden langurs have a striking appearance. Mature adults have golden orange fur. It can lighten or darken with the seasons.
Baby langurs are born with white fur. As they mature into adults, they develop a darker golden fur color. Golden langurs can also have cream-colored fur highlighted with light orange or gold coloration.
Their faces are black and don’t have any hair. During the winter, their fur darkens to a golden chestnut color. In the summer, it lightens to a creamy orange color. Some populations have a more uniformly colored coat than others.
Golden langurs are considered fairly small primates. The average weight of a mature adult is between 19 and 26 pounds (8.6-11.8 kg). The length of their body, not including the tail, is about 35-37 inches (89-94 cm).
Golden langurs have long limbs and tails. Males usually have a slightly longer tail than females. Females have an average tail length of 34 inches (86.3 cm). Males have an average tail length of 38 inches (96.5 cm). Their tails are usually longer than their entire body length.
Where Do Golden Langurs Live?
Golden langurs are native to Bhutan and India. Golden langur populations are extremely fragmented throughout their range. It’s estimated that there are no more than 7,000 mature golden langurs living in the wild today.
Most golden langurs are found in northeastern India, specifically Assam, and southern Bhutan. Habitat loss and fragmentation has caused their distribution to be very limited.
They’re found in these regions because they’re surrounded by geographical landmarks. These landmarks include the Black Mountains of Bhutan to the north and the Brahmaputra to the south in India. In the east and west, the region is divided by the Manas and Sankosh rivers.
Golden langurs live at a wider range of elevations than many other primates. Populations can be found at sea level or as high as 9,843 ft (3,000 m) above sea level.
Many fragmented populations are at risk because much of their distribution is in unprotected lands. Bhutan has a higher golden langur population than Assam.
Habitat and Range
Golden langurs live in a variety of forested habitats. This includes subtropical, temperate broadleaf, moist deciduous, and subalpine forests. They can also live in lowland evergreen and semi-evergreen forests and savannas.
A habitat with lots of leaves and other plant matter is key for the golden langur diet. Wood harvesting, logging, and urbanization have caused much of their forest habitats to be destroyed.
Forests housing golden langur populations have also been destroyed for farming and pasture lands. At least 50% of golden langur habitats in India were depleted between 1988 and 1998.
Their range has been limited to about 193 square miles (500 sq km) in Bhutan and Assam combined.
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Diet and Food Habits
Golden langurs depend on forests because of their primary food source: leaves. Golden langurs spend most of their day resting or eating. In their habitat, they have the choice of feeding on more than 200 plant species. They prefer to eat young leaves that are still soft.
Ripe and unripe fruits are also preferred snacks. They’re very fond of leguminous shrubs found in the understory. So although they spend most time in the canopy, they’re willing to make a trip below for their favorite foods.
Other parts of their diet consist of:
- Insect larvae
- Wild potatoes
Buds and blossoms from the balu tree are also enjoyed.
Golden langurs have unique stomachs with multiple chambers. This helps break down the fibrous leaves so they get the most nutrients out of them. Due to their multi-chamber stomachs, golden langurs spend a lot of time resting to digest.
They’ll travel to a place to feed and then another to rest. Once they’re done resting, golden langurs are ready for their next meal. This is how most of their day is spent until it’s time to settle in for the night.
Golden Langur Behaviors
Golden langurs are very secretive creatures. They don’t like humans to get too close. Usually when encountered by humans, they flee the area. This makes it very difficult to study them. Further studies are needed to fully understand golden langur behaviors and habits.
It’s even hard for researchers to study their natural behaviors. Golden langurs make it aware that they’re being observed.
Summer provides the best opportunity for these primates to be observed. During the summer months, golden langurs travel below the canopy more often. They visit watering holes to stay hydrated.
They get the water they need from rain and moisture on canopy foliage during the wet season.
Golden langurs live in groups. Some groups may have less than 10 members. Other groups have as many as 50 individuals.
Most groups have one dominant male and the rest are female. Larger groups may have two males, but there is still only one dominant male.
Male golden langurs are the protectors. Dominant males direct the group’s movements and defend when necessary.
Females are responsible for caring for the young. Females will help with the care of babies and juveniles, even if it’s not their own.
Golden langurs aren’t known to be territorial. They’ve been observed living peacefully with other types of monkeys, such as Rhesus and Pharye’s leaf monkeys. Golden langurs in Bhutan are believed to mate with their capped langur relatives.
Although not social with humans, golden langurs are considered social creatures.
Golden langurs are assumed to have similar social behaviors and communications as other primate relatives. They use contact calls, body language, and facial expressions to communicate.
Mating and Reproduction
Golden langurs have a relatively low reproduction rate. It takes at least 2 years before baby langurs are ready to leave their mother.
During this time, golden langur babies are weaned. This is a process that involves the mother and other female langurs caring for the young. Females slowly prepare young for adult life.
Golden langurs mate year-round, but they mate more frequently between May and November. The average gestation period of females is about 180 days.
Mating is usually timed for females to give birth in wetter months when more food is available.
Baby golden langurs are born completely white. As they age, they begin to develop their golden fur coat. Their golden coat is usually fully developed by the age of three. By age four, golden langurs are ready to leave the group they were born in.
Females typically stay in the group they were born in. Males separate from their group and join another or become a dominant male.
Juvenile males may group together temporarily until they find a permanent group. Further research is still needed to better understand how juvenile golden langurs form or enter new groups.
Most female golden langurs are ready to start mating at around 4.5 years of age. Once they give birth to a young, they won’t mate again until their young is fully weaned.
Reproduction is relatively slow since females don’t mate until they’re almost five years old. They don’t mate for another two or three years until their young is fully weaned.
Population and Conservation Status
The overall golden langur population has grown slightly within the last few decades. In 2005, the total golden langur population was estimated to be around 5,000 individuals.
Their population was last assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2015. It’s estimated that there are around 6,000-6,500 mature individuals in Bhutan and Assam since this assessment.
Although the golden langur population has grown since 2005, it’s steadily decreasing. Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) appendices, they’re listed as an Appendix 1 species.
The CITES appendices include species that are offered certain levels of protection from over exploitation. The Appendix 1 list includes species that are at extreme risk and offers the most protection.
Golden langurs are critically endangered, mainly due to human activities. Critically endangered species are classified as organisms that are at extreme risk of becoming extinct in the wild.
These monkeys made the list for the top 25 most endangered primates in 2016-2018 and again the following two years.
The survival of the golden langur species highly depends on genetic exchange and conservation efforts. However, genetic exchange is difficult for these species because their populations are so fragmented.
Golden langurs were officially discovered in 1953. But there are records that indicate their discovery as early as 1907. They were discovered by naturalist Edward Pritchard Gee. The species was later described in 1956 by Khajuria.
Conservation Efforts for Golden Langurs
Conservation efforts to save golden langurs have been in motion for decades. In 1998, the Golden Langur Conservation Project was developed by various conservation groups. After the program was implemented, population increases were observed.
One of the protected habitats that golden langurs live in is the Chakrashila Wildlife Sanctuary in India. There have been alleged sightings of golden langurs in the Manas, Chirrang, and Ripu forest reserves. However, these sightings are not confirmed.
In Bhutan, golden langurs can be found in a handful of protected lands. This includes the Royal Manas, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and Thrumshingla national parks. They also live in the Pipsu and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary.
A conservation breeding program was initiated by the Central Zoo Authority in India at the Assam State Zoo. The program is private and viewing isn’t available to the public.
Since a lot of research is still needed on the species, the known ecological role of golden langurs is limited. Golden langurs are known to help with biodiversity by seed dispersal.
When these primates snack on fruits and other plant materials, seeds are dispersed through their feces. This helps promote healthy plant growth and diversity. Seed dispersal is very important for forest development.
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How many golden langurs are left in the world?
It’s estimated that there are about 6,000 to 6,500 mature golden langurs in the world today. This is based upon the last golden langur IUCN status assessment in 2015. The current population status can be skewed due to their elusive behavior.
Why are golden langurs difficult to study?
Golden langurs are very shy and avoid humans. Researchers have a hard time studying these creatures because they tend to flee when humans are present. Their life in the high canopies can make them difficult to study closer.
Researchers also have a hard time studying their natural behaviors because of their extreme awareness of human presence. It makes it difficult for researchers to determine if they’re observing genuine behaviors.
What’s the main reason golden langurs are critically endangered?
The biggest threat to golden langurs is human activity. Golden langurs living in unprotected lands are at a higher risk of habitat loss and fragmentation. Forest clearing for farming and pastures harms these creatures’ habitats.
Wood harvesting and logging is also a huge threat. Other threats include dog attacks, urbanization, and low-hanging power lines. Juveniles are especially at risk. Younger golden langurs can be electrocuted by low-hanging power lines.
Do golden langurs have predators?
Humans are the primary predator of golden langurs. They’re not at risk of other forest predators because of their canopy lifestyle. Many animals that would prey on golden langurs don’t travel to the canopy level. Living high in the treetops provides protection for this species.