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The lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus) is a primate that spends most of its time up within trees. These Old World monkeys have lengthy, tufted and slender tails that resemble those of lions, hence their naming. Lion-tailed macaques have rather meek and reclusive dispositions, and because of that do not generally travel very far out of their forest home ranges. In terms of lifespan, these creatures often exceed 30 years in age.
Lion-Tailed Macaque Geography and Habitat
These moderately-sized monkeys live only in the southwestern region of India -- specifically within the Western Ghats. This mountainous region encompasses several Indian states, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Lion-tailed macaques are found nowhere else in the world. They usually are up in trees, although they occasionally come down too. Typical settings for these macaques are tropical rainforests, damp and thick evergreen forests, disturbed forests and monsoon forests -- all within hilly and mountainous locales.
Physical Appearance of the Lion-Tailed Macaque
Lion-tailed macaques have soft, glossy black fur and gray manes similar to those of male lions. Although the genders are physically similar, male lion-tailed macaques are usually a little bit bigger. Female varieties tip the scales at around 11 pounds, while males are around 15 pounds, according to the Bristol Zoo. Their physiques are generally 20 to 24 inches in total length.
Diet of the Lion-Tailed Macaque
Free-roaming members of this species are mostly folivorous and frugivorous creatures, meaning that they eat a lot of foliage and fruits. Some prominent components of the lion-tailed macaque diet, apart from leaves and fruits, include tree bark, nuts, buds, roots, sprouts, nestlings of birds, lizards, frogs, eggs and bugs. They also occasionally dine on smaller mammal species. In captive environments, these monkeys typically eat diets that consist of mealworms, grains, seeds, crickets, peanuts, fresh produce, hard-boiled eggs and monkey chow.
Reproduction of the Lion-Tailed Macaque
Male lion-tailed macaques generally achieve reproductive maturity when they're around 8 years old, indicates the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. For females, the age is more around 5 years old. The typical gestation duration for these monkeys is roughly 165 days. Breeding season for these primates lasts all year long. Female lion-tailed macaques generally only carry one youngster per gestational period.
Like most other species of Old World monkeys, lion-tailed macaques have handy cheek pouches for quick and easy sustenance storage. They routinely employ these convenient and roomy pouches to keep their valuable findings away and safe from the prying eyes and grasps of others.
Communication of the Lion-Tailed Macaque
These tree dwellers are rather communicative and expressive mammals. When a lion-tailed macaque pushes out his lips and elevates his head, for example, he's basically sending over a courteous "hello." If you ever hear one of these guys yawning, however, watch out, as that is a proclamation of higher status and assertiveness -- and perhaps even upcoming aggressive behavior. Lion-tailed macaques have serious territorial streaks, after all.
Lion-tailed macaques are an endangered species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species as of 2008. As far as fully grown members of this species go, there are not even 2,500 of them in total. Loss of habitat is a major cause for their decreasing population, largely due to coffee and tea plantations, timber growth and hunting activities. These monkeys are frequently sought after for not only their flesh, but also their fur.
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