I had a wonderful trip to visit one of CC’s most successful projects, The Golden Langur Conservation Project in Assam, India. Our founder, Rob Horwich, worked with partners and communities in Assam from 1997-2017. You can read about the original project on our website. The project area is large, covering the entire area around the Manas Biosphere Reserve as well as forest areas farther away, such as the Kakoijana Reserve Forest.
The project involved many local organizations, communities, and volunteer groups. You can read more about the approach CC used to catalyze conservation across the landscape on the Panorama solutions website.
During my three-day visit, I met with our partners and learned about the history of the project and its current status. My primary host, Nature’s Foster, did a wonderful job of bringing together many of the partners for an informal meeting to share what has happened over the past few years since Rob last visited.
They also organized a visit to Robert’s Bazaar, which is named after Rob. See it on google maps. We met people from the community who knew Rob well and remembered him extremely fondly, as well as a bunch of students from the nearby school. We also saw the langur bridges that are being put up over roads to allow the langurs to move from forest patch to forest patch so they don’t have to cross roads on foot. On the last day, we visited communities around the Kakoijana Reserve Forest, where we saw golden langurs!
Similar to CC’s first project, the Community Baboon Sanctuary in Belize (read an update from Teri’s trip in spring 2023), the project is sustainable. But communities are always facing new challenges.
For example, in the Golden Langur Project, two major changes are occurring. First, the 18 community volunteer groups that formed the United Forest Conservation Network around Manas Biosphere Reserve are now being incorporated into the Assam Forest Department. This means the state government recognizes their amazing work and they have steady employment. However, this also means they no longer represent their communities. The impact of this restructuring on the communities and the conservation of the golden langur remains to be seen.
Rob and I published an article in 2010 with Assamese colleagues in which we found that people volunteered for diverse reasons. Primarily, they were motivated by conservation values, a desire to protect the disappearing forest and langurs. They were also motivated by the social and economic opportunities conservation offered. The fact that they are now government staff and not representing their communities could change their motivations. And as they retire, will community members replace them?
The other major change affects the Kakoijana Reserve Forest, which is a forest area protected by 34 communities. When our partner, Nature’s Foster, first took Rob to see the site, the golden langurs that remained were primarily moving around on the ground because so few trees remained. Rob told our partners not to waste their time on such a degraded area, but Nature’s Foster didn’t give up. They continued to work with the communities and when Rob saw how quickly the forest recovered once protected, he became an avid supporter.
As an alternative to a government-managed wildlife sanctuary, Nature’s Foster is working with the communities to find ways to keep the area under the care of the communities using the Forest Rights Act of 2006. India has good policies for communities to manage forest under the Community Forestry Rights in the Forest Rights Act, which recognizes the right of communities to protect, regenerate, or conserve or manage the community forest.
The golden langur has become the mascot for many different groups in Assam state, including local government buses and local elections (see “Goldie” in the photo). There is even a Golden Langur Riders Motorcycle Club in Assam (check out their Facebook page and logo below).
See more photos from the trip.