The southern pig-tailed macaques group

As we start to connect with places where you can view each of these macaques we will gradually separate them out onto different pages. For now, I am going to deal with the whole group on one page, as I will with a number of primate groups.

Help me necessitate the splitting of this page as soon as possible

Booted macaque

The booted macaque  is a macaque of the Sulawesi Island, Indonesia. This Old World monkey is active during the day and spends most of the day in the trees. It is 50–59 cm long plus a tail of 35–40 cm.

It feeds on figs, buds, invertebrates and cereals. Two subspecies are recognized: 1. M. o. ochreata and 2. Muna-Buton macaque

It is currently listed as Vulnerable

Celebes crested macaque

Also known as the crested black macaque, Sulawesi crested macaque or the black ape, it is an old world monkey that lives in the Tangkoko reserve at the north-eastern tip of the Indonesian island of Suluwesi and some of the smaller islands around. This is the species, which took a selfie in 2011 and generated a great deal of conversation as to whether the photographer owned the copyright, or whether it should be owned by the monkey itself.

The Celebes crested macaque is active during the day and a  rain forest dweller. This macaque spends more than 60% of its day on the ground foraging for food and socialising, while sleeping and searching for food in the trees. It is frugivorous, with 70% of its diet consisting of fruits. It also consumes leaves, buds, seeds, fungus, small birds and bird eggs, insects (such as beetles and caterpillars) worms, snails, and the occasional small lizard or frog.

It is listed as critically endangered, though it has 5000 remaining wild members. It is listed as critically endangered because its habitat is being logged, and should it continue as planned there is unlikely to be any left in the future.

Gorontalo Macaque 

Also found on Sulawesi, they were originally considered a subspecies of the Cerebes crested macaque (above), but in 2001 was declared a separate species after 50 years of debate. Having said this, its range overlaps with the Cerebes crested macaque and the do hybridize along their overlapped ranges; they also overlap with the Hecks macaques on the eastern banks of the Bolango river where their species ranges also overlap.

It is listed as vulnerable

Heck's Macaque

Another Sulawesi macaque, active during the day, and feeding on fruit, its range overlaps with the above, and they do interbreed.

It isconsidered vulnerable, the current wild population is estimated at around 100,000

Moor macaque

Again, a Sulawesi macaque (the island of Sulawesi is recognized as biodiversity hotspot), this species is around about 50–58.5 cm long, and eats figs, bamboo seeds, buds, sprouts, invertebrates and cereals in tropical rainforests. It is sometimes called “dog-ape” because of its dog-like muzzle (though not dissimilar to a few other primates) , although it is no more closely related to apes than any other Old World monkey is. Between 1983 and 1994, its wild population fell from 50,000 to 10,000 as a result of habitat loss, It is threatened by logging, hunting tourism and agriculture.

While finding accurate up to date estimates for the population size does not appear to be easy, it was added to the IUCN red list of endangered species in 2015, so it is reasonable to assume that the population has continued to fall.

Northern pig-tailed macaque

It is found in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Traditionally, it was considered a subspecies of the southern pig-tailed macaque, but is now classified as an individual species. In the 21st century, the pig-tailed macaque was split into the northern pig-tailed macaque species  and the Sundaland pig-tailed macaque species. This reclassification was aided by the observation of sexual swellings and basic attributes that distinguish the two. The northern pig-tailed macaque is frugivorous and their social grouping is matriarchal, where sexual dimorphic traits can distinguish males and females. 

Their adaptation to omnivorous diets occur in periods of fruit scarcity, munching on wild vegetation and crops, human foods, and small insects and mammals. Despite their adaptability, northern-pig tailed macaques experience viral threats such as the human immunodeficiency virus type 1, pathogenic simian immunodeficiency, and coronavirus. 

Human impacts are also present, such as agricultural expansions, aquaculture, transportation infrastructure, hunting and logging for meat and trophies, and the illegal pet trade; that result in habitat loss, forest fragmentation, and a reduced well-being.

India currently has a population of around 1500, and 1700 in China, as well as small populations in the rest of the countries listed above. It is considered vulnerable to extinction

Southern pig-tailed Macaque

Also known as the Sundaland pig-tailed macaque, Sunda pig-tailed macaque, Beruk, Sundaland pig-tailed macaque. Historically the northern pig–tailed macaque was considered a subspecies of this species. While mostly terrestrial species, this monkey can climb well when required.

This macaque is mostly found in rainforest up to 2,000 metres, but will also enter plantations and gardens ( of course, for many of these areas, they were rainforest in living memory)

It is found in the southern half of the Malay Peninsula (only just extending into southernmost Thailand), Borneo, Sumatra and Bangka Island. There are reports of the species having been present in Singapore before 1950, but these were likely escaped pets. The only pig-tailed macaques in Singapore today are introduced monkeys.

The current population is estimated at 900,000, and is considered vulnerable.

Pagal Island Macaque

This macaque is found on  Mentawai Islands on the west coast of Sumatra. The Siberut Macaque below was once considered a subspecies of this species but has been raised to full species status with more evidence. This was once considered a subspecies of the Southern pig-tailed macaque.

They are naturally found in rainforests, but being adaptable, they can also survive well in riverine and coastal swamp-forests. They live in the canopy, and forage between 24m and 36m up (this would, at the top end, be between 8 and 9 storeys above the ground). They often sleep at 45m up.

Their primary food-source is figs, and generally split into smaller groups to forage and sleep. They will often eat alongside Mentawal langur groups of 5-25 individuals. Groups are usually a male with adult females and their offspring – the male decides where to go, and communitcates with high pitched cries. Solitary Pagal macaques may challenge the dominant male for his position – usually settled through a violent fight. Their predators include rested serpent eagle and reticulated python, for which the alert (once spotted) is a gruff, brief bark.

It is critically endangered

Siberut Macaque

Once a subspecies of the above Pagal island Macaque, it was found to be distinct enough to warrant separate species status (as the above was also at one time considered a subspecies of the Southern pig-tailed macaque, so was this). It lives on Siberut island, in Indonesia, but has had a rapid fall in numbers. Back in 1980, there were around 39,000 living in the wild, in 2005 if was estimated that the population was between 17000 and 30000. In 2015 an survey of the only protected area on the island (covering around 40% of the area of the island) had a population of around 9000. It is reasonable to suppose that there are also populations of this primate outside the reserve, and certainly taking the initial 39,000, 40% of the island should be able to house almost twice the current reserve population, never-the-less, provided the reserve continues to protect the wildlife within it, the Siberut macaques future is relatively safe. 

They are listed as endangered by the IUCN

Tonkean Macaque

Also known as the Tonkean black macaque, it is found in central Sulawesi as well as the Tongean islands which are close by. Its main threats come from habitat loss, as well as from mining that occurs in central Sulawesi.

Tonkean Macaques look rather like apes, and males are a little bigger than females. Severalf matriarchs enforces a relatively fluid and lenient pecking order. Tonkean macaques make great efforts to stay without fighting in the group and practice conflict resolution to a great degree. Despite being pacifists, matrilines remain rigid and unchanging, even if they’re relaxed compared to other macaque species. However, this peacefulness does not extend to outside troops, and if two tonkean macaque troops cross paths, intense intense fighting can arise.

In a far better state than some other primate species, they are only considered vulnerable.

They have an estimated population of around 150,000, and are currently listed as vulnerable to extinction

Lion-tailed Macaque

Also known as the Wanderoo, this species lives in the Western Ghats mountains of India.

Lion-tailed macaques are covered in black fur, and have a striking gray or silver mane that surrounds their face which can be found in both sexes. The face itself is hairless and black, being pinkish in infants less than a year old. They are named for their tail, which is long, thin, and naked, with a lion-like, black tail tuft at the tip. The size of their tail is about 25 cm in length. Their eyes are a shade of hazelnut with highlighting black eyelids. Lion-tailed macaques, like other macaques, have deep cheek pouches useful for storing food, and are quadrupedal with opposable digits. The mane that surrounds its face gives this monkey its German name Bartaffe – “beard ape”. With a head-body length of 40-60cm and a weight of 2–10 kg, it ranks among the smaller macaques species. Offspring are born with lighter faces and no mane, with the adult mane growing by 2 months old.

Lion-tailed macaque in the Anamalai Hills

The lion-tailed macaque lives in the rainforest, often being found in the upper canopy of tropical moist evergreen forests or monsoon forests. It is diurnal, meaning it is active exclusively in daylight hours. When they’re active, they will spend half the day foraging, and the other half will be spent resting or finding new areas to forage. Unlike other macaques, it typically avoids humans when possible. In group behaviour, 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, typically 1-3, and many females. They have a polygynous mating system with no specific breeding season. While there is no specific breeding season, they do tend to breed in the wet season when resources are most abundant. Little time is spent grooming or playing with others in the group. Of the few males, only one will be the dominant male, who will protect his troop from others and be the one who breeds. It is a territorial animal, defending its area first with loud cries and bared teeth towards the invading troops. If this proves to be fruitless, it brawls aggressively, which can result in severe injuries due to lacerations from their large canines. Other forms of communication come in the form of mounting to show strength, branch shaking to scare off, lip-smacking as a friendly greeting, or yawning with a grimace to indicate dominance.


Lion-tailed macaque behaviour is characterized by typical patterns of arboreal living. This patterns involve 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. Lion-tailed macaques are omnivores, primarily eating indigenous fruits, seeds, flowers, insects, snails, and small vertebrates in virgin forest. Lion-tailed macaques are very important for seed dispersal, and are able to transport seeds long distances by either dropping or defecating seeds. However, due to changes in their environment, adaption to rapid environmental change has occurred in areas of massive selective logging through behavioural modifications and broadening of food choices. These changes involve a large increase in ground foraging and feeding on far more non-native plants and insects. These feeding changes include fruits, seeds, shoots, pith, flowers, cones, mesocarp, and other parts of many non-indigenous and pioneer plants. In the forests of Kerala they were observed preying on nestlings and eggs of pigeons.

Gestation lasts 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.

While lion-tailed macaques are preyed on by snakes, raptors, and large carnivores, its impact on population is tiny compared to our impact. The primary threat is habitat fragmentation due to large amounts of timber harvesting and exotic plantations, such as tea and coffee.

This fragmentation leads to many issues that the lion-tailed macaques are facing. They are struggling to find food, being hit by cars, and being electrocuted by power lines. Due to their low numbers and high levels of fragmentation, they are also highly susceptible to inbreeding, which can cause many genetic issues. Their second largest threat is from humans hunting and trapping them for meat, especially within areas that have primates as their preferred food. There are also many human-primate conflicts occurring now due to macaques venturing out of their forests to find food.

Conservation and population

An assessment in 2003 for IUCN reports 3000–3500 of these animals still live in several areas in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka. 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. Silent Valley has the largest number of lion-tailed macaques 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.

A self-sustainable single population of 32 groups of lion-tailed macaques occurred in Sirsi-Honnavara, Karnataka, the northernmost population of the species. 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.[

The species is also prominently found in the Papanasam part of the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve of Tirunelveli district, the Palani Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park of Dindigul, the Anaimalai Tiger Reserve of Coimbatore in 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. 

Encouragingly, 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. Attention, and tourist visitors will help keep this species conservation on local officials minds.

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