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Posts Tagged ‘Rhesus monkeys Myanmar Burma

Monkeying around in Hlawga Wildlife Park

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Sunrise at Hlawga Reservoir north of Yangon

They were coming at us from all directions, a horde of little furry men trying to hitch a ride on the truck we had driven into the park. But then we took a closer look and saw that they weren’t men at all, but rather a large contingent of Hlawga Wildlife Park’s resident population of rhesus monkeys looking for food handouts.

We had bought some bananas at the park gate, and as we tossed them out of the truck, the monkeys trotted alongside, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four, snatching the yellow fruit from the air and retreating into the forest to enjoy their free snack.


A rhesus monkey leaps for a snack at Hlawga Wildlife Park

After we had left the primate welcoming committee behind, we found ourselves driving on a narrow, winding, red-dirt road through a forest of leafy trees and dry ravines. Before long I started spotting deer among the trees – first alone, then in small groups, and finally in a herd gathered at a feeding area where they vied for food with another group of monkeys.

The animals were tame enough to not scatter when they saw humans but not so tame that I dared try to pet them. Some of the deer were sporting impressive racks of antlers (not to mention hooves) that looked like they would be capable of inflicting a fair amount of damage to anything they perceived as a threat, while the monkeys seemed to maintain a teeth-bared, don’t mess-with-me attitude toward the world at large.


Monkeys and deer vie for food

It was partly for the sake of these animals that the Hlawga Wildlife and Zoo Park was established in 1982 about 35 kilometres (22 miles) north of Yangon. Specifically, the fenced-in Wildlife Park portion was set aside to protect the trees and other plant life in the drainage basin of nearby Hlawga Reservoir (one of Yangon’s main water sources), establish a population of indigenous wildlife species in natural conditions, and provide a recreational area for locals and tourists.

Species that have been introduced to the park include deer (of the hog, barking and sambar varieties), rhesus monkeys, pythons, pangolins (a type of armoured anteater) and mythun (a type of wild cattle). The freshwater Zokanok Lake also provides habitat for a large number of migratory bird species.

Just outside the Wildlife Park is a mini-zoo that includes a Biodiversity Museum, Bird Museum and Environmental Education Center where preserved land animals, birds and butterflies are on display. There are also photographs of indigenous animal and plant species, pictures of threatened birds, and maps of bird migration routes and ecotourism sites in Myanmar. Among the living animals in the zoo are black bears, birds (such as Himalayan griffon vultures, greater spotted eagles and green peafowl) and elephants, the latter of which can be ridden by visitors on a quick five-minute jaunt.

Hlawga Reservoir lies beyond the park boundaries to the south. Like the smaller lake inside the park, it is an important stopover for waterfowl migrating long-distance through Southeast Asia. It is therefore a popular spot for birdwatchers from Yangon to congregate and look for avian species such as the pale-capped pigeon, Asian fairy bluebird, racket-tailed drongo, black-crested and black-headed bulbul, scarlet-backed flowerpecker and black-winged stilt. Trails around the reservoir that are used by villagers also provide recreation for hikers and mountain bikers. However, because the lake is a primary source of drinking water for Yangon, water recreation is generally prohibited.


Pagoda on the south shore of Hlawga Reservoir

Back inside the Wildlife Park, my travel companions and I stopped at Picnic Site 1 to explore on foot. Beyond the vendors who were selling food for both humans and animals was a walking trail that led to Zokanok Lake, where traditional huts can be rented for day use and viewing platforms provide unobstructed views across the water.

After watching a small group of white egrets glide through the air over the muddy lake, we followed the trail across a suspension bridge, which brought us to a boardwalk that skirted the shoreline. At the end of the wooden walkway we found another dirt trail that eventually brought us back to the main road at Picnic Site 2, where our driver was waiting with his truck to take us past more enclaves of monkeys, deer and the odd mythun. (Although we had our own truck and driver, those without transportation can avoid backtracking by taking advantage of scheduled shuttle buses that drop passengers off and pick them up at the four picnic sites in the park.)


Suspension walking bridge in the wildlife park

Picnic Site 3, with its lakefront tables and pavilions, was the most popular by far. Vendors sold traditional snacks and drinks such as pickled tea leaf salad and toddy wine, as well as more general fare like fried rice, whiskey and beer. All around were picnickers enjoying the late morning sun, while yet more crazy monkeys darted from the forest coveting anything they thought they could get their paws on. There was also a gaggle of geese that hung out onshore for awhile before taking to the water and swimming out to an island where I spotted a stork that was so big it had nearly achieved emu-like proportions.

Not far past the somewhat more serene Picnic Site 4 were two hippopotamuses that came trundling out of the water when their keeper called their names, Pauk Kyaw Ma and Thi Thi Maw (I was expecting names that were a bit more African). We dropped some watercress into their open mouths, climbed back into the truck and drove on.


Resident hippos Pauk Kyaw Ma and Thi Thi Maw

As we neared the exit gate, we witnessed yet another group of humanoids hooting, screeching and bursting with activity by the lakeshore. I started looking around for a vendor to purchase some more bananas for the crazy critters before I realised they were an altogether different kind of wildlife – an enclave of teenagers who were enjoying a Sunday in the park in their own loud and restless way.


Come back soon, ya’ll.