The fingers clutching this tree branch in Valparai look startlingly familiar. Hold your own hand out. Now compare the shape, the nails, the joints… all fashioned by the same designer that gifted us our own grasping tools — nails and all.
The hand on this page belongs to a lion-tailed macaque Macaca silenus, found nowhere else but India’s Western Ghats. Handsome beyond description, this monkey from Valparai has much more going for it than mere good looks.
Way back in the 1970s, before ordinary people were even aware of the looming threat of climate change, all-time greats such as Sathish Chandran Nair, Dr Sálim Ali, M. K. Prasad, Romulus Whitaker, M. Krishnan, Sugatha Kumari and a host of others were (unwittingly) working to solve today’s climate crisis. Their partner-in-arms was this Old World primate that became the symbol of a powerful national resistance movement against destructive large dams. In the process, Silent Valley, one of the world’s most precious moist evergreen forests was saved from death by drowning.
Then, as now, the primate on this page obeys an instruction that clever human primates still cannot wrap their heads around… that it’s far more sensible to adapt to nature than try and coerce it to obey human diktats.
So there we have it. An uncomplicated lesson from a less clever, but better-adapted primate who actually accepts without debate the wisdom Shakespeare delivered through Julius Ceasar: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
First appeared in Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVII No. 12, December 2017