WHAT IS loneliness? Ask the lion-tailed macaque at Chhatbir Zoo, and if only it could speak, it would tell all.
Sitting at the entrance of its open enclosure, this magnificent species of monkey, known locally as sher puchad bandar, is the oldest resident of the Mahendra Singh Zoological Park. But it barely gets any visitors. Most people want to see only lions and tigers. ‘LTM’, the initials by which the zoo staff fondly refer to it, has been a “long-time member” of Mahendra Zoological Park, having been here from the time the zoo began in1977. Zoo staff estimate that it is now nearly 40 years old, 10 more than its usual life span.
“I have been here since 1996, and LTM was here before me. My predecessor, who had been at the zoo since 1977, told me that LTM was brought from the Mysore Zoo in a pair. Later, the companion was shifted elsewhere leaving this one alone,” a zoo official said.
The official said there were no records about the animal are easily accessible to determine if LTM and its one-time partner mated and bred at the zoo. Even the exact age we are not quite sure about, though we are sure that he has lived four decades, or may be more.”
Director of Mahendra Zoological Park, Neeraj Gupta, says, “We have made sincere attempts to arrange a partner for the LTM not once but twice in the past. But our attempts were unsuccessful due to the strict technical and necessary guidelines of technical committee of Central Zoo Authority (CZA). In 2006, once we almost finalised with Mysore Zoo for providing us a partner for LTM but our proposal was turned down by the CZA maintaining that the LTM has lived its average age and there are no chances that it would be adjust with any of its partner. It will either harm its partner or will be harmed by its partner. The second reason: this part of India is not an ideal habitat for this species.”
As to how it came to be here in the first place, zoo warden, Harpal Singh, said, “In 1977, the rules were different. The CZA was formed in 1992 and with the passage of time, rules relating to wild animals’ conservation became more strict. We do regular check-up of LTM and for to his age, he is quite fit.”
On any given day, LTM can be seen sitting at the entrance of its enclosure, or playing with mynas, a few squirrels and a mouse.
Zoo officials say the average age of an LTM is 30 year but in the captivity especially in well maintained zoos, captive animal lives more than their average age but LTM is an exceptional case. They maintained that it is an achievement for the zoo management that LTM has been lived for more than 40 years, ten years more than its maximum age estimate.