Lion Tailed Macaques: A View Into Their Vanishing World

The Lion Tailed Macaque

Dusk falls silently over the deep dark forests in Karnataka, India. The big cats have drunk their fill at the rainwater pool, and it is time for the herbivores to come out and drink, while they wait for the moon to come up. It is a full-moon night and they are going to eat their fill, while keeping an eye open for Brother Panther. The Sloth Bear, the peacocks, the Sambar, the Elephant, the Gaur and the Bush Grail, the peasants and the jungle cocks walk proudly over their natural heritage of the forest, while the lion-tailed Macaques and langurs chatter mockingly upon branches overhead. And then the peaceful dusk is shattered by the sound of screeching monkeys and Macaques as a silent net falls over them. The human butchers have struck again.

The lion tailed Macaque is one of the animals facing extinction at the hand of ruthless poachers today. People collecting exotic animals all over the world do not mind paying thousands of dollars to have this unique and rare animal in their collection. These captured animals are going to be boxed up in crates and smuggled across the borders of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where fishing boats take them to their final destination. The smugglers are definitely not worried about the death and destruction they left behind them, when they killed the adult macaques to get to their target of the baby macaques, which are definitely more amenable to captivity.

A lion tailed macaque is a black-furred monkey with a mane of white and silver fur. The face is completely hairless, and black in color. This macaque weighs anywhere between 3 to 7 kg, so it comes in the small macaque category. The word Macaque stands for “ape with a beard.” This monkey has one unique point — it has a tuft of black hair at the end of its tail, just like that of a lion.

The gestation period of this ape is for about 6 months, and the babies are going to be nursed for a period of one year. These monkeys can live happily in the jungles of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala (human factors notwithstanding) for about 20 years. They have managed to survive in zoos for 30 years.

There are only about 250-400 lion tailed macaques left alive to roam their natural habitat. Human depredation in the form of cutting down the forests for making tea plantations, poachers giving in to the demand of getting easy money for “those black faced monkeys, whose flesh is so delicious and fur is so much in vogue” and the apathy of the local government as well as the people of Karnataka, towards the plight of a Lion Tailed Macaque, which is facing extinction, is the reason why we shall not see this charming attractive animal swinging from branch to branch in the near future.


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Teresa Farmer
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Posted on Feb 5, 2010
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Posted on Dec 30, 2009