The endemic ‘lion tailed macaque’ aka ‘wanderoo’

The writers are from Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. They can be reached, respectively at: &

The Western Ghats of Southern India is a home to some of the rarest and most exotic life forms on the planet. It is an ecosystem that has evolved over millions of years. These thick forests support several species of flora and fauna that are found not where else in the world. In these evergreen rain-forests of the Western Ghats lives the beautiful lion tailed macaque.
The lion tailed macaque, Makkah silenus, is endemic to Western Ghats in Southern India. This macaque belongs to kingdom animalia, phylum chordata, class primata and order primates.
The hair of the lion tailed macaque is black. It has hairless face which is also black in color with majestic silver mane around it. Its head body length is 41cm to 62cm and weight of 2kg to 10kg with males being slightly larger in size than females. It is one of the smallest macaque in the world. The tail is medium in length at about 25cm and has tuft at the end which is similar to a lion tail. Males have long, sharp canine teeth that are important when showing off to other males.
The primate is a great climber and spends its majority of its life in the upper canopy of the tropical evergreen forests. In the group behavior, they are much like other macaques living in the hierarchical groups of usually 10 to 20 members, which consist of few males and many females.
They are omnivorous and primarily eat indigenous fruits, leaves, buds, insects but they have occasionally been seen eating meat from insects, small lizards, tree frogs and other small mammals like flying squirrels or bats in areas where their forest home has been greatly disturbed. These pouches store the same amount that their stomach can hold at capacity. Lion tailed macaques have cheek pouches to store food. This helps them to carry fruit in their cheeks while they forage for food.
There is typically one male overlooking several females. The male overlooking is known to protect his own from neighboring troops that may try to encroach on their territory. There can sometimes be as 3 adult males to a group, but only one dominant male would be responsible for breeding. Males leave their groups when they reach maturity, at about 4 to 7 years old, until they are able to defend a troop of their own. Loud call is often the first step to initiating a conflict. Aggressive battles between males can result in severe injuries. He may strategically target an older alpha male to challenge him for his position as leader to the troop.
Lion tailed macaque gives birth to one baby and keeps that baby close, typically on her chest or back. The first birth for a female is typically around 6 years old; the gestation period is 170 days.
The lion tailed macaque is classified as endangered by IUCN Red data list of threatened species. There is believed to be less than 3500 beautiful monkeys left in the world.
Habitat fragmentation is a huge threat to the population, with continued habitat loss due to the mainly to timber harvest and crop population. Because of the habitat loss, the area left to this macaque to survive is becoming smaller and the risk of inbreeding is increasingly other threats to the survival including poaching; their meat is used for food and traded in the exotic pet trade. In the past times, they were also hunted for traditional medicinal use.
Many efforts have been made to help protect the lion tailed macaque. They are at the risk of extinction and international trade has been banned. They are also protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, which instituted the highest penalty for hunting animals. There are many national parks where these are being protected such as “Silent valley national park”, Kerala, one of the most undisturbed viable habitat left for them. This park has the largest number of lion tailed macaque in South India. These macaques are no longer placed in The World’s 25 Most Endangered primates due to the increasing efforts of the local government of South India.