We were in Gulbarga in July 2013 to visit the Chincholi Wildlife Sanctuary, notified recently as Karnataka’s 21st Wildlife Sanctuary. State highway 149 passes through the sanctuary and we travelled on it, watching birds and butterflies.  A family of Spotted Owlets watched us as we watched them, and a Monitor Lizard disappeared behind some stones.

We passed a sign board which had directions to MandiBasavanna camp, an old forest rest house, now home to wildlife that can sneak in beneath locked doors and within crevices. It was near this board that we saw a group of Rhesus Macaques, about seven of them with two infants. The very shy group left the road as soon as we approached it.We waited for a while, but there was no sign of the macaques.

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We returned to the same spot a couple of hours later, by around 5:20 pm and saw a group of Rhesus Macaques.Yet again, they repeated their act of getting off the road and blending with the undergrowth. We walked up to the MandiBasavanna camp along with one of the forest guards and saw two Rhesus Macaques near the camp. A couple of Spotted Deer also ran behind the old building as we approached.

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Of the eight species of macaques found in India, Rhesus Macaque is the most widely distributed. It is found in northern, central and north-eastern India as well as Central and Southeast Asia. Initial studies had indicated that river Godavari was the southern limit of where these macaques were found. More recent studies have shown the south of river Krishna and north of the Eastern Ghats to be the southern limits of distribution. These macaques have been sighted in the neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. However, there have been no records of Rhesus Macaques seen in Karnataka apart from the ones seen in captivity in various labs or zoos.

The group that we sighted may have come from the neighbouring areas where they have been seen before or they could have been artificially introduced into these areas.

During a recent trip to Bidar, we saw a pair of Rhesus Macaques near the outskirts of Bidar city. They were also rather shy, and we saw them on consecutive days in the same area.

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Another pair of Rhesus Macaques can be occasionally seen within the campus of JLR Blackbuck resort, one of them sporting a chain, indicating that these might be escapees.

Keeping an eye out for this species going forward can help document the movement or range extension,if any, of the Rhesus Macaques.

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