Lion-Tailed Macaque
Macaca silenus
Population size
Bnelow 4,000
Life Span
20-38 years
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The Lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus) is an Old World monkey. It is also known as the wanderoo and can be found only in the Western Ghats of South India.


The magnificent Lion-tailed macaque is named due to its lion-like, long, thin, and tufted tail. This adorable primate is unfortunately among the most endangered macaques around the globe. In the meantime, this animal is one of the smallest macaque species in the world. The Lion-tailed macaque is endemic and native exclusively to the Western Ghats (India). It's living proof of the amazing diversity of its mountain rainforest habitat. As a result of its shy and solitary nature, this animal doesn't tend to venture from its usual range, traveling only within its rainforest habitat.




Biogeographical realms

The natural range of this species is restricted to the Western Ghats Mountains, located in the southwestern part of India. The preferred habitat of the Lion-tailed macaques is broad-leaf trees, growing in monsoon forests as well as evergreen and semi-evergreen rainforests.

Lion-Tailed Macaque habitat map

Climate zones

Lion-Tailed Macaque habitat map
Lion-Tailed Macaque
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Habits and Lifestyle

These highly social primates are known to form family units of up to 34 individuals with an average of 10-20. Each group consists of a single dominant male and, sometimes, 1-2 additional adult males. The dominant male of the group controls breeding. Members of these family units not only travel collectively but also sleep huddling together. As arboreal and diurnal creatures, they sleep at night in trees (typically, high in the canopy of rainforest). These macaques are territorial and very communicative animals. One of the distinguishing features of this species is that males define the boundaries of their home ranges by calls. Dominant males of different groups emit loud, human-like ‘whoops’, after which one of the troops leaves the territory. Overall, their communication system contains as many as 17 vocalizations. Along with calls, the Lion-tailed macaques also use body language. For example, they greet each other by smacking their lips, whereas yawning with a grimace is a display of dominance or threat.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

As omnivorous animals, Lion-tailed macaques feed upon a wide variety of food, although fruits form the major part of their diet. Suitable foods include leaves, stems, flowers, buds, and fungi as well as meat such as insects, lizards, tree frogs, and various small mammals.

Mating Habits

6 months
1 infant
1 year

Lion-tailed macaques are polygynous, which means that one male gets an exclusive right to mating with multiple females. Lion-tailed macaques breed year-round. However, the birth rate usually increases during the wet season, when there is a sufficient amount of food. The gestation period lasts for about 6 months, yielding a single infant, which is helpless and completely depends on its mother. The newborn baby is carried on its mother's abdomen. The infant is cared by its mother for a long period of time as it grows and learns various skills. The nursing period lasts for about one year. Soon the young macaques reach adolescence, after which males disperse to join nomadic all-male units until they form and maintain their own harems. Meanwhile, females usually continue living with their natal group. The age of reproductive maturity is 5 years old in females and 8 years old in males.


Population threats

The biggest threat to the overall population of this species is the destruction of their rainforest habitat. In fact, these primates have lost as much as 99% of their original range as a result of large-scale deforestation for timber, agriculture, and development. Lion-tailed macaques live in isolated populations, which are unable to interbreed. Hence, these fragmented populations currently face a sharp decline. Additionally, the Lion-tailed macaques are frequently killed because of being mistaken for Nilgiri langurs, which are commonly hunted for their meat that is falsely believed to have medicinal properties. Other notable threats include persecution as pest species due to raiding crops.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population of Lion-tailed macaques is under 4,000 individuals, including less than 2,500 mature individuals. Specific populations have been estimated in the following areas: The forests of Kerala - up to 1,216 adult macaques; Tamil Nadu (the Anaimalai Hills) - about 500 individuals. Overall, the population number of Lion-tailed macaques is decreasing today, and the animals are classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

Lion-tailed macaques play some role in the ecosystem they live, as they disperse seeds of fruits and plants they consume. They may also affect predator populations, as items of prey.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • On their cheeks, near the lower teeth, these animals have extensile pouches that extend down the side of the neck and act as food storages when feeding.
  • The Lion-tailed macaques are generally arboreal. However, they are known to spend some time on the ground, typically playing and splashing in the water.
  • These primates get a part of the required moisture by licking dew from leaves.
  • Lion-tailed macaques can possess opposable first digits or thumbs on their limbs, which help them in climbing, feeding, moving, grooming, and other activities.
  • This species is otherwise known as the “beard ape”, as a reference to its mane.
  • The Lion-tailed macaque is currently one of the rarest macaque species. Moreover, this animal is the only endangered macaque out of 21 species of its genus.
  • When spotting a predator or a human, this animal will freeze on the top of a tree, where it lives.


1. Lion-Tailed Macaque Wikipedia article -
2. Lion-Tailed Macaque on The IUCN Red List site -

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