Lion-tailed macaque

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Lion tailed macaque[1]
Lion-tailed Macaque in Bristol Zoo.jpg
Male at Bristol Zoo
Lion-tailed Macaque, Singapore Zoo (27787086112).jpg
Female at Singapore Zoo
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Cercopithecidae
Genus: Macaca
M. silenus
Binomial name
Macaca silenus
Lion-tailed Macaque area.png
Lion-tailed macaque range
  • Macaca albibarbatus (Kerr, 1792)
  • Macaca ferox (Shaw, 1792)
  • Macaca veter (Audebert, 1798)
  • Macaca vetulus (Erxleben, 1777)
  • Macaca silanus (F. Cuvier, 1822)
  • Simia silenus Linnaeus, 1758

The lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus), or the wanderoo, is an Old World monkey endemic to the Western Ghats of South India.

Physical characteristics[edit]

A male showing his canines
A skull preserved at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands

The hair of the lion-tailed macaque is black. Its outstanding characteristic is the silver-white mane which surrounds the head from the cheeks down to its chin, which gives this monkey its German name Bartaffe – "beard ape". The hairless face is black in colour. With a head-body length of 42 to 61 cm and a weight of 2 to 10 kg, it ranks among the smaller macaques. The tail is medium in length at about 25 cm, and has a black tuft at the end that is similar to a lion's tail, although this tuft is more pronounced in males than in females.

Gestation is approximately six months. The young are nursed for one year. Sexual maturity is reached at four years for females, and six years for males. The life expectancy in the wild is approximately 20 years, while in captivity is up to 30 years.[4]


Lion-tailed macaque in Nilgiri hills

The lion-tailed macaque is a rainforest dweller; it is diurnal, meaning it is active exclusively in daylight hours. It is a good climber and spends a majority of its life in the upper canopy of tropical moist evergreen forests. Unlike other macaques, it typically avoids humans when possible. In group behavior, the lion-tailed macaque is much like other macaques, living in hierarchical groups of usually 10 to 20 members, which usually consist of few males and many females. It is a territorial animal, defending its area first with loud cries towards the invading troops. If this proves to be fruitless, it brawls aggressively; these aggressive interactions can range from a simple chase or igniting a fight when feeling aggravated. On the other hand, when around mutualistic species, they do not engage vigorously.[citation needed]


Lion-tailed macaque behaviour is characterized by typical patterns such as arboreal living, selectively feeding on a large variety of fruit trees, large interindividual spaces while foraging, and time budgets with high proportion of time devoted to exploration and feeding.[5] It primarily eats indigenous fruits, leaves, buds, insects and small vertebrates in virgin forest, but can adapt to rapid environmental change in areas of massive selective logging through behavioural modifications and broadening of food choices to include fruits, seeds, shoots, pith, flowers, cones, mesocarp, and other parts of many non indigenous and pioneer plants.[5] In the forests of Kerala they were observed preying on nestling and eggs of pigeons.[6]


Female lion tailed macaque with her infant

A recent assessment for IUCN reports 3000–3500 of these animals live scattered over several areas in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka[7] The lion-tailed macaque ranks among the rarest and most threatened primates. Their range has become increasingly isolated and fragmented by the spread of agriculture and tea, coffee, teak and cinchona, construction of water reservoirs for irrigation and power generation, and human settlements to support such activities. They do not live, feed or travel through plantations. Destruction of their habitat and their avoidance of human proximity have led to the drastic decrease of their population.

From 1977 to 1980, public concern about the endanged status of lion-tailed macaque became the focal point of Save Silent Valley, India's fiercest environmental debate of the decade. From 1993 to 1996, 14 troops were observed in Silent Valley National Park, Kerala, one of the most undisturbed viable habitats left for them.[8] Silent Valley has the largest number of lion tailed macaque in South India. Other protected areas in Kerala include Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary, Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary, Periyar Tiger Reserve and its premises (Gavi and Konni), Eravikulam National Park, Pambadum Shola National Park, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Annaimalai Tiger Reserve, New Amarambalam Reserved Forest, Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary and Chimmony Wildlife Sanctuary and Wayanad region.[citation needed]

A self-sustainable single population of 32 groups of lion-tailed macaques occurred in Sirsi-Honnavara, Karnataka, the northernmost population of the species.[9] A local census concluded in 2007, conducted in the Theni District of Tamil Nadu, put their numbers at around 250, which was considered encouraging, because until then, no lion-tailed macaques had been reported in that specific area.[10] The species is also prominently found in the Papanasam part of the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve of Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. Many zoos take part in breeding programs which help to secure the survival of this species. About 338 of these macaques are reported to live in zoos.[4] However, it is no longer on ‘The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates’ list, after the international body compiling it determined that the local governments in southern India had acted positively to protect it.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 164. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ Singh, M., Kumar, A. & Kumara, H.N. (2020). Macaca silenus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T12559A17951402.en
  3. ^ Linne, Carl von (1758). Systema naturæ. Regnum animale (10th ed.). p. 26. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Lion-tailed Macaque". World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), Virtual Zoo. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 24 May 2007.
  5. ^ a b Singh, Mewa & Kaumanns, Werner (10 October 2005). "Behavioural studies: A necessity for wildlife management" (PDF). Current Science. 89 (7): 1233.
  6. ^ Balakrishnan, Peroth (24 December 2010). "Predation of eggs and nestlings of pigeons (Columbidae) by the lion-tailed macaque Macaca silenus in the Western Ghats, India" (PDF). Indian Birds. 6 (6): 167–168.
  7. ^ Molur S, D Brandon-Jones, W Dittus, A. Eudey, A. Kumar, M. Singh, M.M. Feeroz, M. Chalise, P. Priya & S. Walker (2003). Status of South Asian Primates: Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (C.A.M.P.) Workshop Report, 2003. Zoo Outreach Organization/CBSG-South Asia, Coimbatore
  8. ^ Ramachandran, K. K.; Joseph, Gigi, K. (2001). "Distribution and demography of diurnal primates in Silent Valley National Park and adjacent areas, Kerala, India". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 98 (2): 191–196.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Singh, Mewa & Kaumanns, Werner (October 2004). "Distribution and Abundance of Primates in Rain Forests of the Western Ghats, Karnataka, India and the Conservation of Macaca silenus". International Journal of Primatology. 25 (5): 1001–1018. doi:10.1023/B:IJOP.0000043348.06255.7f. S2CID 30384142.
  10. ^ "Nilgiri Tahr, lion-tailed macaque sighted in Theni district". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 9 May 2007.

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