Rilawa, Rilewa, Temple monkey
This smallest macaque is a native Sri Lankan species with a golden-brown fur. The local people call Toque Macaque the “Rilawa”. The most characteristic feature of this primate is the toque-like swirl of hair on its head top. As a matter of fact, their physiological characteristics vary greatly, depending on climatic conditions. Thus, populations in cooler climate exhibit thick, dark brown coat as well as relatively short limbs and tails. Meanwhile, those inhabiting lowland rainforests typically display reddish or golden fur and longer bonnets. Populations in drier habitats have lighter fur, noticeably longer legs and tails as well as shorter swirl of hair on their head.
The Toque macaques are native and endemic exclusively to Sri Lanka, where they generally occupy three types of habitat, hence can be divided into three subspecies. These are: the Common toque macaque, occurring in dry habitat; the Pale-fronted toque macaque, inhabiting wet areas; and the Hill-zone toque macaque, found at high elevations.
Habits and lifestyle
These primates are generally tree-dwelling creatures. The Toque macaques are highly social animals, living in units of up to 40 individuals, which remain in the group for a long period of time. However, young males are known to occasionally move between groups. As a general rule, these social units contain twice as many females as males. Each group consists of 50% mature individuals and 50% infants and juveniles. Individuals of both genders have certain responsibilities within a group. Males are the leaders of the groups, settling conflicts between juveniles, whereas females raise offspring. The Toque macaques live in a well-defined dominance hierarchy system, where the oldest male is usually the most dominant one, followed by lower-ranked members of the community: sub-adult males, adult females and then juveniles. As diurnal animals, the Toque macaques perceive their environment mainly through vision, which is even used to identify a food source. A large part of their active time is spent looking for food.
troop, barrel, cartload, tribe, wilderness
Diet and nutrition
As omnivorous species, the Toque macaques consume food of both animal and plant origin. They have a rather diverse diet, primarily consisting of fruits, tree flowers, buds, and leaves and supplemented with birds, lizards and small invertebrates. The rest of their diet is composed of occasional crop, including rice, cocoa, and coconut. Although they obtain a part of required moisture from their food, during the dry season they travel to watering holes every day, drinking enough amount of water to sustain them.
Toque macaques are polygynandrous (promiscuous) with both males and females, mating with multiple partners. These primates breed during the summer months, generally from July to September, although breeding period largely depends on geographical range. Gestation period lasts for 5 - 6 months, yielding one infant, which is cared mainly by its mother. Females form groups of infants so that young can play together and socialize. Usually, young of the same age play together. Overall, females of this species are known to be very attentive mothers, protecting their offspring from threats. Infants are weaned at 170 days and become independent at 2 years of age. Females are ready to bread at 5 years of age, while males become reproductively mature at 7 years of age.
The biggest threat to the population of this species is wood-cutting, leading to considerably damage and loss of their natural habitat. Localized threats include capture of Toque macaques for pet trade.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Toque macaques’ total population. Currently, this species is classified as Endangered (EN) and its numbers continue to decrease.
These macaques affect the local ecosystem in many ways. For example, an average group of Toque macaques is known to consume up to 1% of all yearly fruit production of their range. Due to their fruit-based diet, these animals also act as important seed dispersers of some fruiting plants. Feeding upon small lizards and birds, they control population numbers of these animals. The Toque macaques share their habitat with two monkey species: the Hanuman langurs and purple-faced langurs. The Toque macaques can frequently be seen together with these monkeys without any competition for food, since they have different diets. While Toque macaques are generally frugivorous animals, both of the monkey species have a leaf-based diet.
Fun facts for kids
- When moving in trees, these primates use all of their four limbs. Meanwhile, they move along the ground by walking on their digits. When their hands are full, the Toque macaques can also walk on their hind legs.
- These animals have special cheek pouches, serving as food caches, where they store food items by pushing them with both hands to consume them later.
- These primates perceive their environment through a well-developed stereoscopic and color vision.
- The Toque macaques communicate through conspecifics mainly through vocalizations. They are known to use as many as 30 various calls, including alarm calls to warn members of their community of threats. They also use certain vocalizations when socializing and playing.
- The Toque macaques are also known as 'temple monkeys', since these animals are usually found in the 'Cultural Triangle' of Sri Lanka, which is an area with a number of ancient temples.
- These animals are known to produce so-called scream call, if another group of conspecifics approaches them.
- The Toque macaques settle conflicts through the "fear grimace", which is a smile-like facial expression, where an individual exposes its teeth and clenches them together.