The less sought long-tails

Often ignored by wildlife photographers and enthusiasts, the Nilgiri langur(Trachypithecus johnii) and the Capped langur(Trachypithecus pileatus) are equally vibrant and dynamic as their more famous counterparts, the widely photographed Lion-tailed Macaque and Golden Langur… … a brief glimpse into their vibrant life in the arboreal canopies

“Black monkey! You mean Lion-tailed Macaque?”Exclaimed a friend over the phone when I told him about my first encounter with a group of Nilgiri Langur.  Disappointed, he channelled the talk to Nilgiri Laughing Thrush, another endemic – but I was still elated.

The Indian Hooded Leaf Monkey or Nilgiri Langur is often overshadowed by their aggressive and illustrious cousins the Lion-tailed Macaque in the community of wildlife enthusiasts. Though spread throughout the southern Western Ghats – Nilgiri hills, these forest monkeys are somewhat unevenly distributed and the best chances of seeing these are in the  Anaimalai, Mudumalai range. Having a glossy black appearance supported with a long black tail –these are no less charming. However, getting a close look or decent photograph is not easy – unlike the Grey Langurs, these are less keen to meet us, humans. By the time you take out your camera, the black-tails will disappear in the thick Sholas within no time. They travel in small groups and are well-camouflaged troops in the jungle canopy due to their coloration. Hence, even when they are sometimes nearby, chomping on a fruit in a tree in the vicinity, they are not always easy to spot.  Thankfully the Nilgiri Langurs are very vocal and able to articulate several different types of vocalization – a characteristic which is advantageous to us for searching these well-camouflaged lots.

The young with the mother -Capped Langur

The young with the mother -Capped Langur

The Capped Langur of the North-east shares an eerily similar fate to the Nilgiri Langur. Everyone is interested in the elusive Golden Langurs, while the bright orange langurs with a cap having colors different from the coat are easily overlooked. The Capped Langurs or Capped Leaf Monkeys are known to have different subspecies which are differentiated mainly by colors in underside and forehead. They are often seen in the same geographical location with Golden and Grey Langurs in India and Bhutan. In India, the best chance of spotting them lies in Manas and Kaziranga National Park, although these are frequently seen in the jungles of Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. Active after sunrise, these Langurs look their best in the dusk and dawn hours –  when the reddish light brightens their reddish-orange underside. Like the Nilgiri Langurs, these are also forest monkeys and can be seen jumping from one canopy to another in large groups. Rarely seen on the ground, these social langurs, interestingly, prefer separate trees for sleeping.

Capped Langur contemplating

Capped Langur contemplating

Both the  Niligiri and the Capped Langurs are in IUCN’s threatened category. However, being locally common, these are not that hard to find. I had my best encounters with these vibrant primates while visiting Needle Rock View Point near Ooty, Tamil Nadu and during a trip to Manas National Park, Assam respectively. So next time while travelling in the North-east or South-west, if you come across these long-tailed forest dwellers – look again closely – these leaf monkeys are no less dynamic than any of their cousins by any means.


Cover Pic: Nilgiri Langur in the forest canopy alerted by our presence

Read also: Revisiting the moments in the wild 

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About the Author /

Asani Bhaduri urf the ‘Half-mad K-no-w mad’ is an Assistant Professor at University of Delhi. A ‘Non-directional Traveler’ and ‘SLR-less Photographer’, Asani believes that the beauty of nature and wildlife is for everyone, not just for the rich and select few. Being a ‘benign birder’, he regularly posts his non-SLR bird images in Twitter to encourage common people to take up birding and bird photography. Mr Bhaduri describes himself as an Impact-free Researcher, Non-directional Traveler, Practice-skipping Violinist, SLR-less Photographer, Discerning Omni-reader, Forgetful Phytologist, Benign Birder, Penniless Numismatist, Philanthropic Philatelist, Poorest Art-collector, Grown-up Toy-accumulator, Long short(e)mail Writer, Contradictory Agnostic, Pessimistic Humanist …


  • Analangshu Bhaduri.

    October 28, 2018


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