The lion-tailed macaque, also known as wanderoo, is a species of Old-World monkeys. This primate belongs to the family Cercopithecidae and is native to the mountainous regions in southwest India. It is one of the smallest among macaque species, and it derives its name from the tuft of black hairs that occur at the end of its tail, similar to that of a lion. The most distinguishing feature, however, is its silver-white mane. It surrounds the macaque’s head and comes down along its cheeks to the chin, making it look like a ‘bearded ape’.
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Table of Contents
Physical Description and Appearance
Size: It is a small-bodied primate measuring 42-61 cm from its head to the body. It has a medium-sized tail that is about 25 cm long.
Weight: It usually weighs anywhere between 2 and 10 kg. A few males have been recorded to weigh up to 15 kg.
Color: It has a black body and face, which is hairless and surrounded by a silver-white mane.
Body: This macaque species has a sturdy body covered with fur and a thin, medium-sized tail with a black tuft at its tip.
Sexual dimorphism: Apart from having a larger body than the females, male lion-tailed macaques have larger canine teeth and a more conspicuous tuft on their tails.
These monkeys are exclusively found in the Western Ghats, which is a mountain range located in the southwestern part of India.
What Kind of Habitats do Lion-tailed Macaques live in
They inhabit the upper canopy of monsoon forests and tropical evergreen forests. These primates are found at different elevations, ranging from 100-1,850 m. They are usually spotted on broadleaf trees.
While the average life expectancy of these macaques in the wild is about 20 years, captive specimens may live for up to 30 years.
It is an omnivorous animal and has a wide range of food choices. In the wild, it typically eats fruits, leaves, buds, seeds, shoots, flowers, and cones of indigenous and non-indigenous plants, as well as small vertebrates and insects. It may prey on eggs and nestlings of birds, such as pigeons.
As an arboreal species, the lion-tailed macaque is an expert climber and spends most of the time in the treetops of tropical evergreen forests.
It is diurnal by nature, which means it remains active by exploring and foraging during the daytime.
Unlike other macaque species, it avoids encounters with humans as much as possible.
It lives in groups, containing 10-20 members, out of which one male looks after several female lion-tailed macaques and juveniles.
It uses 17 different sounds and calls to communicate, including a loud cry for indicating territorial boundaries.
It uses its cheek pouches, like most Old-World monkey species, for storing food. The cheek pouch contains an amount equivalent to its stomach’s capacity, helping it to carry fruit in its cheek while foraging for food.
The males possess long canines, which they show off to intimidate other males or predators.
The opposable digits on its hands and feet allow it to climb, groom, and eat with ease.
Mating and Reproduction
Although the lion-tailed macaques do not have any specific breeding season, most births take place during the wet season. When the females are in estrus, the area under their tail swells up, and they produce a mating call to attract males.
The courtship involves a male examining the genitals of the female, after which the couple isolates themselves from the rest of the group members to mate without interruption. The two leave each other after they have copulated.
Female lion-tailed macaques usually give birth to an offspring following a gestation period of around six months. They take care of their offspring and carry them on the abdomen until the young macaques are weaned at roughly one year of age. While the females reach sexual maturity when they are five years old, the males become sexually mature at about eight years of age.
What does the Baby Lion-tailed Macaque look like
Newborn lion-tailed macaques do not have the silver-white mane and have a pale pinkish face. They weigh around 400-500 g at birth.
Per a recent IUCN assessment, only 3,000-3,500 of the lion-tailed macaques live in the southwestern parts of India. Their native range has now become fragmented due to the construction of reservoirs for power generation and irrigation, development of human settlements, timber harvesting, and spread of tea or coffee plantations and agricultural lands. As a result, the IUCN has classified it as an ‘Endangered’ primate species. Several protected wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in India have been designated where lion-tailed macaque populations are preserved.
They do not travel much on the ground, but when they do, they walk on four limbs.
Apart from being adept at climbing trees, they are excellent swimmers.
When two lion-tailed macaque groups encounter, members aggressively interact with one another. They may chase the intruders away and fight when they feel aggravated. Vigorous or aggressive fights are, however, rare.