- A-Z Animals
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.