Classification and Range
Cercopithecidae, which includes 81 monkey species. There are 15 macaque species, the lion-tailed is one of the smallest. The lion-tailed macaque is native to southwestern India, in the Western Ghats mountains.
Dense primary tropical forests.
Body length: 20-24 inches (46-61 cm).
Males 20-25 pounds (9-11 kg);
Females 15-18 pounds (7-8 kg).
Up to 20 years in the wild; macaques may live 30 or more years in zoos
In the wild: Macaques feed on fruit, leaves, bark, roots, insects, eggs, bird nestlings, tree frogs and lizards.
At the zoo: Monkey chow, fruits, vegetables, nuts, crickets, mealworms, seeds and grains.
Females reach sexual maturity around 5 years of age; males usually about 8 years of age. Gestation period is 165 days. Lion-tailed macaques mate and give birth at any time of the year. When a female is ready to mate, an area under her tail swells and she may initiate calling to attract males. Females usually give birth to one infant at a time which is carried on the abdomen.
Infants have soft, black natal coats that are replaced with adult textured coats after about two months. Macaques live in troops comprising of 10-20 members, ruled by a dominant male. Females usually remain in the same troop with their mothers. Male macaques, however, tend to leave their natal group at adolescence to live in all-male groups or in small female groups for varying periods of time. Throughout the day, lion-tails forage in trees. At night, they sleep high in the forest canopy, hiding among the branches.
Little Lions in the Trees
Lion-tailed macaques are known for their lion-like manes and tails. They have black, silky fur, long, gray hairs around the face and a small tuft of fur at the end of the tail. These monkeys use 17 different vocal patterns to communicate. They also communicate with body language, such as yawning with a grimace to indicate dominance or a threat, and smacking their lips to greet one another. Although they spend most of their time in trees, lion-tailed macaques come down to the ground to play or splash in water. Lion-tailed macaques are territorial; when leaders from two different troops give a loud whooping call (which is said to sound like a human voice), one of the groups moves away.
Catch Me if You Can
Lion-tailed macaques are reluctant to travel through open gaps in the forest for fear of predators. When gathering food, however, they are required to leave the safety of their home in the treetops and forage through all levels of the forest. Lion-tailed macaques and other members of the macaque and baboon family have developed an ingenious way to limit the amount of time needed to gather food. The monkeys have cheek pouches that open beside the lower teeth and extend down the side of the neck. When fully extended, these pouches can store an equivalent to their stomach's capacity. They gather food quickly with their hands and promptly stuff it in their pouches. When their pouches are full, they retreat to the safety of the forest's upper canopy and eat. Being able to gather and store large quantities of food per outing limits the amount of time that macaques are exposed to predators.
Location at the Zoo
Visitors can view the zoo's lion-tailed macaques at the Trail of Vines exhibit in the Tropical Asia bioclimatic zone. Visitors will immediately notice the complex system of arboreal pathways provided by dead and living trees and other vegetation. Positioned at various angles, these trees provide a physically complex environment that enables the lion-tailed macaques to travel at multiple levels, much as they would in their natural setting.
Lion-tailed macaques are a highly endangered species. Once abundant throughout India's mature evergreen forests, there may be fewer that 2,000 of these monkeys left in the wild. Overpopulation, habitat destruction, fragmentation and other human activities have forced these animals to live in small, isolated pockets of forest separated by cultivation and open areas. As a result, inbreeding is occurring, which limits the gene pool and creates weaker populations with smaller numbers. Lion-tailed macaques are sometimes hunted for their meat and, occasionally, as a source of medicine.
Native people believe that some of these fragmented forest areas are sacred groves, referred to as sholas. It is believed that sholas are each guarded by a different god, so native people protect sholas from any disturbance. The sacred status of sholas is helping to protect and preserve forests and animals that might otherwise be destroyed.
Woodland Park Zoo has been a world leader in the captive breeding of macaques. To date, more than 50 lion-tails have been born at the zoo, most going to other zoos as far away as England, France, Australia, Israel, Japan and China to breed new generations of macaques. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for lion-tailed macaques which ensures the genetic viability of this species in North America is managed through the Woodland Park Zoo. The International Studbook, a worldwide registry of the captive population of lion-tailed macaques, is also maintained through the zoo.
How You Can Help!
You can help to save endangered species and their habitats. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo and other conservation organizations of your choice. Please do not buy products made from wild animal parts.
Contact Woodland Park Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org find out other ways you can support conservation programs at the zoo. Learn other ways you can help conserve wildlife and the habitats they require for survival by visiting our How You Can Help page.
Sources and Suggested Reading
Burton, Francis. 1995. The Multimedia Guide to the Non-Human Primates. Prentice Hall Canada, Inc., Scarborough, Ontario. 168 p.
Zoobooks. 1994. Old World Monkeys. Wildlife Education, Ltd., San Diego, CA. 18 p.