Genus and Species: Macaca silenus
These social monkeys live in rainforest treetops in India's
Western Ghats mountains.
Covered in smooth, black hair, lion-tailed
macaques are hard to see in the shady forest. They have
gray manes that frame their faces and give them a big-headed
look. These animals get their common name from their
Lion-tailed macaques are usually about two feet long,
with an additional 18 inches of tail. Males grow slightly
larger than females. Weight ranges from 15 to 33 pounds.
Lion-tailed macaques live in southwest
India in pockets of evergreen forests, called sholas, in the
Western Ghats range. They live at elevations between 2,000
and 3,500 feet.
The lion-tailed macaque is listed as endangered on
the World Conservation Union's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened
Lion-tailed macaques live in moist, shady evergreen
forest in the Western Ghats mountains.
In the wild, lion-tailed macaques eat fruits,
seeds, buds, leaves, insects, and small birds and mammals.
National Zoo Diet:
The Zoo's lion-tailed macaques eat a variety
of fruits and vegetables, monkey chow, and, once a week, meat
or hard-boiled egg. In addition, keepers occasionally scatter
"forage foods"—food pellets, peanuts, mealworms,
or crickets—that the monkeys seek, find, and eat.
Female lion-tailed macaques reach maturity
at an average age of five, while males usually take three
Five and a half months after mating, females give birth to
In zoos, lion-tailed
macaques have lived for more than 30 years. Their longevity
in the wild is likely much shorter.
During the day,
lion-tailed macaques travel the treetops in groups of 10 to
20, including one to three adult males, several females, and
their young. Males call loudly to announce their presence
to other males. Three other primate species occur within the
lion-tailed macaque's range, but the lion-tailed is the most
arboreal (tree-living) species. While slowly moving through
the trees, troop members stuff their cheek pouches full of
food. Later, they extract the food by rubbing their cheeks
with the backs of their hands.
macaques are unique to India. In the early 1970s, they still
ranged through the southern third of the country. Today, they
only live in mountain forests scattered across three Indian
states: Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Over the years,
many were captured for the pet trade, zoos, research, and
use in traditional Chinese medicine. The macaques declined
as human settlement advanced. Teak, coffee, and tea plantations
as well as dams and roads destroyed many forests. Today, habitat
destruction is the lion-tailed macaques' worst enemy. Unlike
the other three species that share their range—bonnet macaque
), common langur (Presbytis entellus), and
Nilgiri langur (see below)—shy lion-tailed macaques rarely
cross through plantations to get from one forest to another.
The future of lion-tailed macaques is closely linked with
the protection of large sholas, where many other endemic (unique
to that region) animals live.
A Few Lion-tailed Macaque Neighbors:
Nilgiri langur (Presbytis
johni): This blackish, gray-headed leaf-eating monkey
also inhabits southern India's evergreen shola forests.
(Dendrocitta leucogastra): This crow relative travels through
the forest with other bird species in mixed foraging flocks.
sloth bear (Melursus
ursinus): South India's only bear species finds shelter
in mountain forests and often feeds at night in clearings.
By saving lion-tailed macaque habitat, we protect these and
many other animals.
Of the world's 21 macaque species, lion-tailed macaques are
among the most rare. They are the only macaque species currently
listed as endangered.
Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates, by Noel
Rowe; Pogonias Press, 1996.
Evolution and Ecology of Macaque Societies, edited
by John E. Fa and Donald C. Lindburg; Cambridge University
Copyright 2000, Friends of the National Zoo.