Articles - Lion-Tailed Macaque : Endangered Primate of Western Ghats

Lion-Tailed Macaque : Endangered Primate of Western Ghats

Posted by: | Posted on: 21/09/13 | Comments: 0

Lion-tailed macaque, also known Wanderoo, is an exotic creature that is found commonly in the rainforests of the Western Ghats of South India. Found less than 4000 in number, this animal is one of the world’s most endangered primates.


                                    Lion Tailed Macaque, Photo Courtesy

Order: Primates

Family: Cercopithecidae

Species: Macaca Silenus

Where To See - Silent Valley National Park


Physical description:


The body of lion-tailed macaque is covered in smooth black hair, making their visibility hard in a shady forest. Distinct-looking gray manes surrounding their faces, gives them a big-headed look. These animals are called so because of their their sagging bushy tails.




Generally these primates are around 2- feet long, with a tail that is as long as of 18- inch. The growth of males is slightly more than females. The weight ranges between 15 and 33 pounds.


Geographic distribution (Habitat):


Sholas, the lush green forests in the Western Ghats of the southern part of India are the prime habitat of lion-tailed macaques. They are generally found at an elevation of 2,000 to 3,000 feet.




The World Conservation Union has added lion-tailed macaque in their Red List of Threatened Animals.


Natural Diet:


Buds, fruits, seeds small birds, mammals and insects form a part of the natural diet of the lion-tailed macaques.


Zoo diet:


If in a zoo, these primates get a chance to eat various kinds of fruits and vegetables and monkey chow. Once a week, they can relish hard-boiled ages and meat. Along with this, once in a while, they are also offered forage foods such as mealworms, crickets, peanuts and food pellets.




A female lion-tailed macaque attains maturity at around 5 years of age but a male takes 3 years more. After mating of around 5 and a half months, the female becomes pregnant and gives birth to its child.


Life Span:


Because of good care, in a zoo, a lion-tailed macaque lives for over 30 years but in the forest, their lifespan is much shorter.




In the days time, these primates form a group of around 10-20 and travel on treetops. This group consists of 1-3 adults, various female along with their kids. The males give a loud call to make their presence felt to the other male counterparts. While moving swiftly from one tree to another, these animals stuff their cheeks with food and once they reach at their destination, they dig out the food by rubbing their cheek with their hand’s back.


Macaque Population in India - Then and Now:


Found exclusively in India, during the first half of the 1970’s,  they were found in one-third of southern part of the country. But today, they can be found in 3 different states including Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. After an increase in the human settlement, the number of these macaques has decreased because of ill practices like researches, pet trade, zoo and their use in Chinese medicines. Forests were destroyed because of construction of roads and dams and coffee, tea and teak plantation.


Destruction of their habitat has had an extremely adverse effect on the population of this species. In comparison to their 3 species- bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata), Nilgiri langur and common langur (Presbytis entellus), lion-tailed macaques are quite shy and they do not travel from one forest to another. To save lion-tailed macaques, it is obligatory that Shoals should be protected.


Some Neighbors of Lion-Tailed Macaques:


Nilgiri langur (Presbytis johni), White-bellied treepie (Dendrocitta leucogastra) and Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) are the prime neighbors of lion-tailed macaque. If we protect the habitat of lion-tailed macaque, we will save these other 3 species as well.




There is a total of 21 macaque species in the world and lion-tailed macaques are the one of the rare ones. Also, they are the only macaque species that are included in the list endangered species.




Lion-tailed macaques are highly arboreal and are dependent on evergreen forests. They are facing a major threat because their habitat has been fragmented into portions that are not even sufficient for 40 breeding animals, necessary for survival and maintenance of a rich gene pool. Although in areas of cardamom and coffee plantations, canopies are maintained but climbers are stripped-off, thus giving the whole area a thin-cover look. All this harm the long-term well-being health of lion-tailed macaques. If numbers are to be believed, around 50 percent of these primates is under threat.


Hunting is another major threat. It is believed that if in a number of 50, even if 2 animals each year are removed, they will get to the verge of extinction.


To save these threatened species, it is necessary that their habitat should be protected. Along with this, special attention should be given to save their sub-populations too. Restoration of these species in uncovered areas, protection against hunting,  sand protection of corridors and bringing in healthy animals into in-bred groups is very important, if lion-tailed macaques have to be saved.


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Geetika Handa is a travel writer who has an interest in sharing her experiences with all. She provides a detailed account of any... more»