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Scientific & Common Name(s)
Bonnet Macaques are a group of primates that diverged from the human race several million years ago. They are scientifically classified as the Macaca radiata. The genus Macaca is an indication that these species fall under the category of the Old World Monkeys. Bonnet macaques get their names due to the spirally arranged hairs on top of their head.
Habitat & Geographic Range:
Animals under the genus Macaca predominantly prevail in South Asia, but are widely classified into subspecies. They have a huge geographic distribution, but are mostly known to exist in Afghanistan, shores of China, Thailand and India (Gibbs et al., 2007). Specifically, there are two subspecies of the bonnet macaques: dark-bellied bonnet macaques, Macaca radiata radiata and pale-bellied bonnet macaques, Macaca radiata diluta. In particular, the Bonnet macaques exist in Southern India. They are highly arboreal and good swimmers. In India, they reside in a variety of environments, such as the dry deciduous forests and evergreen high forests. Aside from being able to survive in all these various environments, the macaques are capable of thriving near human habitats, posing as a great tourist attraction (Southwick and Siddiqi, 1994). They are extremely dependent on human populations, which gives them the advantage of coexisting with us.
Size/Weight & Lifespan:
The bonnet macaques are either golden or grayish brown in colour, with pink colouration on their faces. The males are larger, they weigh about 5.9 to 9 kg and can grow up to 60 cm tall, whereas the females weigh around 3.5 to 4.5 kg and reach a height of 35 cm. These primates usually live to reach around 20-25 years in the wild, while captivity can possibly add up to five years to their lifespan.
The Bonnet macaques are omnivorous creatures, capable of feeding on both plants and invertebrate objects. They typically feed on fruits, seeds and bark, along with insects. When food is abundant, foraging behaviour has been observed. These primates travel in troops which are based on their age-sex ratio: juveniles, sub-adults, male adults and female adults. It has been observed that males feed on more fruits while females and juveniles feed mostly on insects and grubs (Krishnamani, 1994). In addition to obtaining food on their own, these species are highly dependent on human populations as well. In India, as a result of them being revered to as sacred beings, they are often fed if sighted foraging around the native temples. The food consists of bananas, bread, rice forms and vegetables. Furthermore, these primates are known for their bold approaches on raiding crops and garbage cans of small towns.
Reproduction and Communication
Macaques communicate through physical gestures and actions. They are known to groom each other and large males embrace one another to relieve social tension. Another form of communication is through grinning and clicking which further relieves tension. One of the more important forms of communication are alarm calls, which are warnings of danger. In terms of reproduction, younger males are known to mate with several females, whereas older males prefer a single mate. In order to elicit copulation, males present to the females. This behaviour consists of the “tongue flick”, where the tongue is moved rapidly in and out of the mouth until the females permit copulation. Mating season occurs from September to October and from February to April. However, they produce offspring only once every one to two years. Moreover, pregnancy lasts around 24 weeks and the baby macaques ride on their mothers’ backs for the first six to seven months of their lives.
Bonnet macaques’ natural predators include, tigers, dholes, eagles, feral dogs, large Indian pythons, mugger crocodiles. In addition to these wildlife threats, the monkeys are attacked by humans as well.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened species, the Bonnet macaques are listed as the least concerned species (The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2010). However, there is still a slight apprehension about the safety of these species. This is due to recent land transformations with the species distribution; there is competition between the Bonnet macaques and the more predominantly existing Rhesus macaques.
Did you Know?
In Southern India, Bonnet macaques are worshipped by the locals as they are iconic to the monkey god, Lord Hanuman.
Gibbs R.A. et al. (2007). Evolutionary and Biomedical Insights from the Rhesus Macaque Genome. Retrieved from: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/316/5822/222.full
Krishnamani R. (1994). Diet Composition of the Bonnet Macaque (Macaca radiate) in a Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest of Southern India. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266135412_Diet_composition_of_the_Bonnet_macaque_Macaca_radiate_in_a_tropical_dry_evergreen_forest_of_Southern_India
Southwick C. H., Siddiqi M.F. (1994). Population Status of Nonhuman Primates in Asia, With Emphasis on Rhesus Macaques in India. Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajp.1350340110/abstract
Timmins, R. J., Richardson, M., Chhangani, A., Yongcheng, L. (2008). "Macaca radiata", IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
A primate (i/ˈpraɪmeɪt/ PRY-mayt) is a mammal of the order Primates (i/praɪˈmeɪtiːz/ pry-MAY-teez; Latin: "prime, first rank"), which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment. Most primate species remain at least partly arboreal.