The Himalayan Langur Project calls the Mandal Valley its home. This majestic valley is a paradise for bird watching enthusiasts and has been a focus of researchers who want to study high-altitude Himalayan flora and fauna. Mandal valley is located in the Garhwal Himalayas, in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in India. Mandal Valley is guarded by the mystical Rudranath massif in its North, and the magestic Tungnath massif is the jewel in its crown, standing tall on the west. The valley opens towards Gopeshwar on its East, and is bounded by the Pokhri valley on its South. Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, famous for its floral and avifaunal diversity is located in Mandal-Chopta valley and covers the pristine Trishula reserve forests. The valley experiences distinctive seasonal changes in its vegetation which also regulates the cultural and livelihood activities of the local communities inhabiting this valley. The valley receives majority of its precipitation during the monsoon months of June to August, although Mandal valley also receives orographic rainfall.
Mandal Field Site
This field site serves as the base camp and the operations center for the Himalayan Langur Project. This field site is named after the Mandal village, an oft forgotten village in the history of environmental activism. This is the place from where Chipko Movement started in the mid 1960s and wrote a new page in the history of environmental activism and community participation. This village is located at the southern outer fringe of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. This field site is located between an altitude of 1400 metres above sea level (masl) to 1800 masl. This field site is composed of mixed broad leaved forest, dominated by dense patches of Oak (Quercus leucotrichophora). One can see dense growths of alders near the riverine areas in this valley composed of Alnus nepalensis and Betula alnoides. Other major tree species that grow here are Rhododendron arboretum, Myrica esculenta, Pinus roxburghii, Prunus cerasoides, Celtis australis, Lyonia ovalifolia, Pyrus pashia, Carpinus viminea, and Daphniphyllum himalense. Over many years of human habitation, this landscape has been slowly been transformed from a continuous mixed broadleaf forest to a matrix of forest patches and anthropogenically modified landscapes. We study a habituated troop of Himalayan Langur (~70 individualus) at this field site since 2014. This field site is also the epicenter of our community outreach activities, where we interact with the local communities of Gondi, Gweer, Kunkuli, Mandal, Siroli, and Sanso villages that are located around our base camp and forms a part of the daily movement range of the langur troop.
The Kanchula Kharak field site was established in 2021 to habituate and study a second troop of Himalayan Langur for Virendra Mathur’s doctoral research. This field site is located inside the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, and to the South West of the Mandal field site, on the north facing slopes of the Garhwal Himalayas. This field site is located between an elevation of 2450masl to 3000masl. This place derives its name from the widespread species of Acer present in this landscape, with the most dominant one being Acer acuminatum. The acer species are called Kanjula in the local language, and thus lends its name to this place. This field site is comprised of conifer mixed broad leaved forest, dominated by Quercus semecarpefolia and Quercus floribunda, along with dense growths of Aesculus indica, Abies pindrow, Pinus wallichiana, Taxus bacchata, and Corylus jacquemontii. This field site experiences drastic seasonality in terms of vegetation abundance, and is covered by snow during the months of late December to early April. The upper reaches of this site acts as a transition zone to the sub-alpine and alpine meadows of the Tungnath region. This field site also receives majority of its precipitation during the monsoon season. Kanchula Kharak along wtih Chopta, which is located to its west, forms a famous spot for bird photography because of the diversity of pheasants found here, as well as the natural habitat of the Himalayan Monal.
Rudranath (~3600 m), situated north of Mandal Valley in the Garwahl Himalayas, is a landscape of Alpine pastures, forests, and rhododendron dwarfs. Rudranath is famously home to a temple dedicated to the god Shiva, but the landscape is also utilized by shepherds and a variety of other species. This includes large mammals like the Himalayan Black bear (Ursus thibetanus, V) Common Leopard (Panthera pardus, V), Tiger ((Panthera tigris, EN) (recently camera trapped [Hindustan Times, June 2019])), as well as wild ungulates such as the Musk deer (Moschus leucogaster, EN), Himalayan Goral (Naemorhedus goral, NT), Himalayan Serow (V), Himalayan Tahr (V), and the Sambar (Rusa unicolor, V).
Currently in the context of the Himalayan Langur Project, livestock health, ethnography of shepherds, veterinary practices, and human relationships are being investigated in Rudranath by MS student Amish Dua.