This used to be our Eden

A small troop of monkeys visit our home garden in Malabe every day in search of food. The trees and plants are thus regularly trimmed, pruned and wiped clean of any fruits and flowers. We are forced to overlook this minor inconvenience as monkeys in general are rather desperate for survival these days. With the fast disappearing habitat and food sources life is a constant battle for them. With increasing urbanisation these hopeless arboreals are sometimes chased out mercilessly with fire-crackers, sticks and stones. One begins to really wonder what civilisation is all about. Humans gradually take over their natural territory, and so the natural inhabitants of the land become the intruders.

There are four species of the Purple-faced Leaf monkey or Purple-faced Langur (Trachypithecus vetulus) which is classified as an “Old World” monkey. Of the four different species (Presbytis senex) is endemic to Sri Lanka . The Purple faced leaf monkey is identified as a threatened species by IUCN. They mainly survive in the Sinharaja forest, Kitulagala protected zone and the Horton Plains National Park.

Purple faced leaf monkey

As I tried to photograph the small troop, they wore a curious but nervous expression, gazing at me in anticipation mixed with apprehension. One large male with an amputated tail relaxed on a tree while the others remained at close range. Mothers cradled their infants, while the more agile youngsters romped about in the upper branches. I penned down these verses to record my bittersweet thoughts.

This used to be our Eden

This used to be our Eden, my great-grandma did say,
We foraged and frolicked and ‘lived’ through our days
Then one day came a back-hoe and took away our nests,
The trees we used to swing through on our daily quests.

Now we miss our old haunts – and jump from roof to roof
The new neighbours sure don’t like us, they detest our goofs!
But this is the only home we know, where else can we go
And in the middle lies a perilous highway that we fear to cross…

So day in day out we traverse through our time-frozen track,
But sadly the changed landscape does not welcome us back…
Living in fear and apprehension, not to mention constant hunger,
Till we find our next meal and a nights rest, all we do is wander…

 Purple faced leaf monkey

Story | Nilu Rajapakse
Photography | Nilu Rajapakse

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