Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Toque Macaque (Macaca sinica)

Ever seen a monkey with a haircut? If not, try looking out for the toque macaque. This stocky little monkey is an endemic species widely spread throughout Sri Lanka and undoubtedly boasts the best hair-do on the island!
These monkeys nimbly climb trees foraging for a wide variety of food including fruits, seeds, berries, crickets, spiders and birds eggs – which they often keep in their cheek pouches for later.
Toque macaque’s live in groups called “troupes” that usually consist of about 20 individuals of all ages and sizes, led by a single dominant male who protects and leads the group. These troupes are commonly seen hanging around ancient temples, as a result they are often nicknamed “temple monkeys”.

What are their main threats?

Habitat loss: Toque macaques are becoming increasingly threatened by habitat loss. Their numbers have declined by more than half in the last 40years. Despite this they are the only endemic species of the island not protected by law.

Persecution: Extensive deforestation has left the toque macaque with less and less space to live, as a result they have been driven closer to human populations in search of food and can often be seen in cultivated lands and near houses. Many people persecute them as they see them as a pest and a threat to their crops.

Capture: Although shy in the wild toque macaques can become tame in captivity, many are therefore caught and kept as pets.

What you can do

Why not try and change some minds? Speak to friends and family about the importance of these monkeys and the threats they face, try to help people to view them not as pests or pets but as an important part of Sri Lanka’s natural heritage that must be protected.

» Find out how else you can help to protect Sri Lanka's endangered species

Illustration by Asia Hewapathirana