Torque Macaque group

As we start to connect with places where you can view each of these macaques (and this page becomes too big) 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

Arunachel macaque

The Arunachal macaque is a macaque native to Eastern Himalayas of Bhutan, China and India. It is a relatively large brown primate with a comparatively short tail. Its species name comes from mun zala, meaning deep forest (mun) monkey (monkey), as it is called by the Monpa people of West Kameng and Tawang.

It was scientifically described in 2005.

A camera trap photograph of Arunachal macaques in Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, India

It was discovered as a new taxon in 1997 by the Indian primatologist Anwaruddin Choudhury, but he thought it to be a new subspecies of the Tibetan macaque; It was left to a group of scientists from the Nature conservation Foundation, India to describe it as a new species in 2005. It is the first species of macaque to have been discovered since 1903, when the Indonesian Pagai Island macaque was first described. This monkey was reported on the basis of a good quality photograph as the holotype. In 2011, some researchers suggested, on the basis of morphological variation within the Assamese macaque, that it might be better treated as a subspecies. Subsequently, it was also discovered in Bhutan, where it was observed and photographed in the Trashi Yangshi area in 2006.

It  is compactly built and has a very dark face. It lives at high altitudes, between 2000 m and 3500 m above sea level, making it one of the highest-dwelling primates. It belongs to the M. sinica species-group of macaques (those on this page). The Arunachal macaque is apparently physically similar to the Assam and Tibetan macaques, while genetically closely related to the bonnet macaque of southern India. This is probably the result of convergent evolution which is a process where similar environment produces similar animals even though they evolved independently.

Kumar et al. (2008) and Sinha et al. (2006) report at least 569 individuals in thirty-five troops; thirty-two troops in Tawang and three troops in West Kameng.[1] The monkey is severely persecuted in some parts of its known distribution by locals retaliating against crop raiding. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Assam macaque

Found in South and South-East Asia, this macaque has been listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List since 2008, as it is experiencing significant declines. This is a result of poaching (essentially illegal hunting) deforestation, and fragmentation. Fragmentation is a risk because if you cut down most of the forest, but leave the section that the primates live in, it is unlikely to have access to enough forest to be able to survive, and if it can, it will be unable to connect with others of its kind in order to be able to breed. There are 2 recognized subspecies:

  • The eastern Assamese macaque,  occurs in Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura in northeastern India, into northern Myanmar, southeast through the Myanmar-Thailand border ranges as far as Chongkrong, to the upper Mekong in Tibet, into the provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou, Tibet and Yunnan in southwestern China, in Thateng in northern Laos, and Hoi Xuan in northern Vietnam;
  • The western Assamese macaque, , is found from central Nepal through Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Assam and northernmost West Bengal in northern India, into central Bhutan and the Sundarbans in Bangladesh. This subspecies only numbers around 1000 in the wild
Its conservation status, is near threatened, 

Bonnet macaque

The bonnet macaque, also known as zati, is a species of macaque found in to southern India. Its distribution is limited by the Indian Ocean on three sides and the Godavari and Tapti Rivers. Furthermore, it is hemmed in from the North by the Rhesus macaque, which stops its expansion in that direction. Land use changes in the last few decades have resulted in changes in its distribution boundaries with the rhesus macaque, raising concern for its status in the wild, this is because in general, land changes mean removing habitat from the wild and turning it into housing or farming land

The bonnet macaque is active during the day, arboreal, and terrestrial. Males have a head-body length of 51.5–60 cm  with a 51–69 cm  tail while females are 20-30% smaller. Males weigh 5.4–11.6 kg and females around half that. It can live up to 35 years in captivity.

The bonnet macaque feeds on fruits, nuts, seeds, flowers, invertebrates, and cereals. In southern India, this macaque exists mostly harmoniously to humans, feeding on food given by humans though it also raids crops and houses – generally with wild species, when they realize that you are a source of food they become more dangerous (there are many parts of the world, where a fed animals quickly becomes dangerous and has to be killed).

Two subspecies of bonnet macaques have been identified and recognized:

  • Macaca radiata radiata, dark-bellied bonnet macaque,[1] found in South and West India between the Tapti River, Palni Hills, and Timbale. In the 16th century it was introduced to the Mascarene Islands (Mauritius and Réunion).
  • Macaca radiata diluta, pale-bellied bonnet macaque, found in Southeast India in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. From the southern coast north to Kambam at the base of the Palni Hills and east to Puducherry.

Bonnet macaques are sexually mature at the age of 3 or 4. The majority of births take place from February to April, before the arrival of the monsoon. Bonnet monkeys are polygynandrous. The gestation period lasts 24 weeks and a single infant is the normal result of a pregnancy. The young will breast feed for six to seven months and begin assisted feedings of solid food from their mother thereafter. Other members of the troop, especially related females, will express interest in the infant in its first months of life. The bonnet macaque has a very wide range of gestures and behaviors, which can be easily differentiated. Lip-smacking is one of the most common affiliative behaviors, where one individual may open and close its mouth in rapid succession, with its tongue between its teeth and its lips pressing against each other, giving an audible sound. A grimace is the most common gesture of fear or submission that a subordinate shows to a dominant individual during aggressive encounters. It consists of pulling back its upper lip, showing its upper teeth. It also has distinct alarm calls for predators such as pythons and leopards.


Bonnet macaque with baby in Kerala

The bonnet macaque are very social animals and they communicate in a different range of facial expressions. The bonnet macaque, like other macaques, shares a linear dominance hierarchy; the alpha male is the most dominant male of the troop, followed by a beta male and a gamma male, and so on according to their dominance. Similarly, females also follow this linear hierarchy. The male and female hierarchies are different and of a non-overlapping or non-mixing types. Males are usually dominant over females.  In their social groups females tend to stay in the same group they were born in, whereas males tend to disperse.

The females’ dominance hierarchy is stable, whilst the males’ dominance hierarchy is very dynamic. In the male hierarchy, males close in rank often fight to rise in rank; A male has the best chance of obtaining a high rank in his prime age, resulting in the greatest benefits to reproduction because high rank gives first access to breeding females. females are only capable of becoming pregnant in a few months of the years, so competition is fierce. In this situation, the ranks established by aggressive encounters come into play, mostly these aggressive encounters are easily resolved, but when males are of similar size and fitness, they can go on a long time, and can lead to death. Female bonnet macaques attempt kidnappings of lower-ranking females, though these are done mostly by mother females and the majority of the time they are not successful in completing it. Different males may employ various means to rise in rank. Coalition formation between unrelated males to oust a more dominant male has been observed. Males often move from troop to troop to gain a higher rank with the resulting benefits, however, males remaining in a single troop have also been observed to rise to become dominant male of that troop.

An important note is male bonnet macaques are generally far more laid back and carefree in their social lives than many other macaque species. Competition among male bonnet macaques is much more subdued and there is a much higher emphasis on pacifism. Male bonnet macaques groom each other, hug each other, sleep near each other, play together and engage in male-male mounting as a social defuser. While assertive males may take measures to monopolize matings, they cannot control females and these females will mate promiscuously, as macaques do. In this way, their behaviour seems to mimic the bonobo rather than the common chimpanzee. Some mysterious environmental pressures must have driven the bonnet macaque to form an unusually egalitarian social structure. 

It is unclear why some macaques have developed this more laid back behaviour towards sex and mating, though they generally inhabit more fertile habitats with more abundant food. Bonnet macaques are also strong swimmers.

In the case of females, the stable dominance hierarchy is a result of female philopatry, when individuals tend to remain with the troop into which they are born. This results in the formation of matrilinear groupings of closely related females.

Their conservation status in vulnerable

Tibetan Macaque

Also known as the Chinese stump-tailed macaque or Milne-Edwards’ macaque,  it is found from eastern Tibet east to Guangdong and north to Shaanxi in China. It has been reported from north-eastern India, though it is unclear how many live in this area. This species lives in subtropical forests (mixed deciduous to evergreen) at eleveations from 800 to 2,500 m above sea level (a significant height).

There are four recognized subspecies:

  • M. t. thibetana
  • M. t. esau
  • M. t. guiahouensis
  • M. t. huangshanensis

The Tibetan macaque is the largest species of macaque and one of the largest monkeys found in Asia with only the proboscis monkey and the larger species of gray langur are bigger in-size among Asian monkeys. It has long dense fur, to keep it warm high in the mountains where it is found.

The Tibetan macaque lives in mixed sex groups; in their complex social system, females remain for life in their natal group, but males leave once they reach sexual maturity (at around 8 years old). Macaque societies are hierarchical, with higher-ranking males getting better access to food and sexually-receptive females. Alpha males dominate the group, being those that are typically large, strong and newly mature (different to chimpanzees and gorillas which are usually dominant later in life). As they age, males tend to gradually lose their social standing and are frequently subject to challenges for dominance from other males, dethroning of a dominant male can be very violent, and death is not an unusual outcome. Studies of Tibetan macaques at Mount Emei and Huangshan Mountains, China, found the average tenure for an alpha male only lasted about one year (while this sounds short, given the size of troops, the male may sire several dozen offspring, during their year at the top). When troop size becomes quite large (in the 40 to 50 range) and competition grows over increasingly stretched resources, some individuals (males, females and juveniles) split from the main group to form a new, smaller group, known as ‘fissioning’, and move on to a different home range. Usually, it is the lowest-ranking individuals that will split from the main group – this is rational, as the lowest ranking individuals stand little chance to breed or get the best food, so they have little to loose by branching off in a new group.

Females first breed at around five years of age. The gestation period is six months with a single offspring being produced at each pregnancy. Most infants being born in January and February. Young macaques are nursed for a year and may continue to do so longer if the female does not give birth again the following year. Males of the group may also be involved in alloparental care.

This species spends most of its days foraging on the ground for leaves, fruit, grass and, to a lesser extent, flowers, seeds, roots and insects. When available, bamboo shoots, fruits and leaves are particularly favoured.

This species is classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN and is listed on Appendix II of the CITES list. Its main threats are all human-related. The main threat, as with many primates, is habitat loss, however they are sometimes poisoned by herbicides and pesticides while eating and may catch diseases transmitted from humans. Illegal poaching may occur, for the bushmeat trade/

Torque macaque

Found in Sri Lanka, its name is in relation to the whorl of hair at the crown of the head, which has been compared to a brimless torque cap.

The generic name Macaca is from Portuguese macaco, is not easily tracked to its origin, while sinica means “of China,” though the species is not found there. The population as a whole, is decreasing, with it having halved in the last 40 years. There is significant persecution of toque macaques as they are considered crop pests, as such, they are shot and poisoned as ways to keep them out of crops. They are also known zoonotic vectors of Trichuris, Ascaris, and certain strongyle worms

While they have a life expectancy of as high as 35 years in captivity, their wild life expectancy is lower. Individuals can live to be 30, but the average is 4.5-8 years.

There are three recognized subspecies of toque macaques:

  • Macaca sinica sinica, dry zone toque macaque or common toque macaque. This subspecies is found from the Vavuniya, Mannar to the lowlands of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Puttalam, and Kurunegala; and along the arid zone of the Monaragala and Hambantota districts. It is classed as endangered
  • Macaca sinica aurifrons, wet zone toque macaque or pale-fronted toque macaque. This subspecies is found sympatrically with the subspecies above within intermediate regions of the country in Kegalle and parts of Kurunegala. It is also found in south-western parts of the island in the Galle and Matara districts near Kalu Ganga. It is classed as endangered.
  • Macaca sinica opisthomelas, highland toque macaque or hill zone toque macaque. Only recently having been identified as a separate subspecies. It can be found in the entire south-western region of Ratnapura and in the Nuwara Eliya districts. It is also found around Hakgala Botanical Garden and other cold climatic montane forest patches.This subspecies is similar to subsp. aurifrons, but has a long fur and contrasting golden colour in the anterior part of its brown cap, allowing them to be told apart (each subspecies can be identified by looking at its crown)

White-cheeked macaque

The white-cheeked macaque is a species of macaque found only in Mêdog County in southeastern Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh in north-eastern India. The white-cheeked macaque lives in tropical, primary and secondary, evergreen broadleaf, mixed broadleaf and conifer forests.. The species was initially described by Chinese primatologists Cheng Li, Chao Zhao, and Peng-Fei Fan, in the American Journal of Primatology in 2015. It is the most recent macaque to be described. While the species’ exact conservation status has not yet been determined, it is likely threatened by poaching, deforestation, and increased human development of its habitat, much like the other primates which inhabit the area. In terms of its current status Cheng Li said:

“Currently, Modog is the only known habitat of the white-cheeked macaque, though its range may extend to neighboring counties in China and regions of southeast Tibet controlled by India,” and he estimates the population at about 500.

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