India: Human Presence Increases Parasitic Load in Endangered Lion-Tailed Macaques

Understanding changes in the host-parasite relationship due to habitat fragmentation is necessary for better management and conservation of endangered species in fragmented landscapes.

Pathogens and parasites can pose severe threat to species in restricted environments such as Forest fragments where there is increased contact of wildlife with human and livestock populations. Environmental stress and reduced nutritional level in forest fragments can influence parasite infection and intensity on the native species.

In this study, researchers examined the impact of habitat fragmentation on the prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites in Lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus) in a fragmented rainforest in Western Ghats (South India).

They found high prevalence and species richness of gastrointestinal parasites in lion-tailed macaque groups are directly related to habitat fragmentation, high anthropogenic activities and high host density. The parasite load partially explains the reason for the decline in immature survival and birth rate in small and isolated rainforest fragments in Anamalai Hills (The name "Anaimalai" derives from the Tamil/Malayalam word 'Anai' meaning elephant and 'Malai' meaning hill, thus Elephant Hill) .
Images: Lion-tailed macaque female with her baby and two pics of Anamalai Hills