It was 11 a.m. in the morning and I had just returned from a 10 km. survey walk in the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra. I was exhausted and was looking forward to a short rest before we set off again, when there was a frantic knock at my door. It was my roommate, Prajakta, and she dragged me out of my room to the guest house gate where, to our despair, lay an injured baby langur. We realised it must have belonged to the same troop that lived in the premises of the guest house during the day, moving deeper into the forest as night fell.
We stood there for a few minutes, wondering whether or not we should intervene. Before we had made our decision, a female langur from the troop, probably its mother, hurried forward and picked it up. Placing it gently under the shade of a tree, she sat by it quietly as each member of the troop edged forward anxiously. Even the young ones, usually so energetic and noisy, stopped their antics and sat solemnly around the injured baby. The older females sat by the mother, caressing her as she held the baby, grooming and sniffing it. Her sorrow at losing her child was evident.
As time passed, the troop began to move away, but the mother stayed under the tree with her injured young. It took a lot of cajoling for her to join the troop, and she did so still clutching her child.
Soon, we had to leave to resume our fieldwork and when we returned several hours later, the caretaker told us the baby langur had not survived. I could not stop thinking about the mother’s concern towards her baby and how her troop had rallied around her. I always remember this incident when I hear people say that animals do not form emotional attachment with their packs – I had seen exactly the opposite in Umred.