The Story Behind Finding a New Species of Primate in India

Text & photos by Udayan Borthakur

The snow-capped mountain peaks of Eastern Arunachal

Conservation of wildlife is both my passion and profession. There is though a slight but important difference: my passion compels me to wander into areas even where my professional requirements do not necessitate me to go. And when another person shares the same passion, there cannot be any place too remote to be explored. Before I tell you the story of how three wildlife biologists and serious photographers recently discovered a new species of rare primate for India, I must first tell you how the three of us got together.

Dr Ranjan Kumar Das, a renowned bird expert from the Northeast and a Geography professor at Tinsukia College shares my interest in wildlife. Only he is more focused on birds. We started taking birding trips together since 2012, when we first met at Dihing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary. Another person who is a professional wildlife biologist, and whom I have seen working in the wilderness as a youngster, is Dr. Dilip Chetry. I know him since 1998, when he worked as a PhD scholar in Hollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary in my hometown Jorhat, and inspired a few like me to get involved with wildlife. Now, after almost two decades, both Dr. Chetry and I are colleagues in the same organization, Aaranyak.

The East Beckons

In the year 2015, we set out for the Eastern corner of India in Arunachal Pradesh. Our target location was Walong in Anjaw district, a place known to many because of the Chinese invasion in 1962. However, to nature and wildlife enthusiasts, Walong is better known for a more recent Chinese invasion! Four new species of birds which were earlier known to be found only in China were found in Walong. Our plan was to see and photograph those as well as look for other rare species, in birding lingo looking for ‘lifers’.