Macaques are members of the genus Macaca, in the Old World monkey family – Cercopithecidae. They are the most widespread genus of primates in the entire world apart from Homo (the genus to which human beings belong). Members are to be found from Morocco (the Barbary Macaque, Macaca sylvanus) in the West to Japan (Japanese Macaque, Macaca fuscata) in the East.  India has around 10 of the total 23 species of macaques know to science. They include:

  • Lion-Tailed Macaque (Macaca silenus)
  • Northern Pig-Tailed Macaque (Macaca leonina)
  • Crab-Eating Macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
  • Stump-Tailed Macaque (Macaca arctoides)
  • Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta)
  • Bonnet Macaque (Macaca radiata)
  • Assam Macaque (Macaca assamensis)
  • Tibetan Macaque (Macaca thibetana)
  • Arunachal Macaque (Macaca munzala)
  • White-Cheeked Macaque (Macaca leucogenys)

The Bonnet Macaque is endemic to the forests and countryside of South India, in that portion of the peninsula which is marked off by the Tapi River to the West and the Krishna to the East. Though categorized as of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it seems that it is giving way to its northern cousin, the larger, more aggressive and prolific Rhesus Macaque of North and Central India. According to some reports, as much as  24, 565 sq km of Bonnet territory has been encroached. Conservationists are now calling for efforts to be prevent further loss of territory.

Given below is an excerpt from the online news portal, Scroll, describing the reasons:

A survey, conducted from 2004 to 2008, of the populations of rhesus and bonnet macaques across various zones in peninsular India found that rhesus macaque had gained ground since 1981, when the previous such study was done. In about 25 years, the rhesus monkey had extended their range by about 3,500 sq km into the traditional habitat of the bonnet monkey.

In 2014 and 2015, Singh and Kumara conducted another survey across various temple and tourists places in southern India, as well as forest areas. They found that, combined with the previous surveys, the rhesus macaque had invaded nearly 28,000 sq km of the bonnet macaque’s habitat in less than four decades.

“We did not find the bonnet monkey in many places they were found earlier,” said Kumara. He explained that with the unceasing movement of the aggressive rhesus macaque to the South, the endemic species was losing its range area. The rhesus macaque is also a fast breeder. “There may not be direct aggression, but once the resource is occupied by another group, the bonnet monkey has to move away,” Kumara said. “In that way, it is a very gradual process.”

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, is a photograph of a young Bonnet Macaque in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu, South India. It was uploaded by Mr. P. Jeganathan of Thanjavur.