Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Lion Tailed Macaque

The lion tailed macaque (Macaca silenus) is a species of monkey that is exclusively found in the southern region of India.  It is rated as 'Endangered' by the IUCN.

Physical Features
The lion tailed macaque is a medium sized monkey that ranges from lengths of 35 cm to 60 cm.  Males are slightly larger than females.  It has black hair throughout its body except the face region.  The face is black and hairless.  The unique and distinct feature of the lion tailed macaque is its mane.  Its silver white mane distinguishes it from the otherwise similar Nilgiri Langur.  

Distribution and Habitat
A lion tailed macaque
The lion tailed macaque is restricted to the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats range in southern India.  Majority of the population is present in Kerala, India.  Other populations are present in the Anamalai hills of Tamil Nadu and the Western Ghats section of Karnataka. The Silent Valley National Park is a famous stronghold of the lion tailed macaque.  Lion tailed macaques live in evergreen forests that can be 1700 m above mean sea level.  They require isolated environments which is one of the key reasons for a decline in their numbers. The estimated population is said to be about 4000 individuals.  Habitat encroachment and destruction is the main threat to the population.

The lion tailed macaque is a social animal and live in groups that may consist of 10 to 60 individuals.  Lesser the region is disturbed by humans, smaller the group size.  They are mainly arboreal and spend most of their time in the upper canopy of evergreen forests. Unlike other macaques like the rhesus macaque, the avoid humans.  Their cries have a uncanny resemblance to that of humans.  They may become aggressive in case of territorial disputes.

Lion tailed macaques mainly eat fruits, shoots, leaves, insects or even small vertebrates. They feed on the indigenous plants and trees of their area but may adapt in areas where logging is excessive.  Eggs of various birds also constitute their diet.

Conservation Status
The lion tailed macaque is rated as 'Endangered' by the IUCN.  Their population has faced considerable decline due to habitat destruction for agricultural purposes and habitat encroachment by humans.  Unlike other macaques, they avoid humans and hence do not reside in agricultural lands.  They were once rated as one of the most endangered primates in the world but now, thanks to severe measures taken by the Indian government to protect this species, they are off that list.