Crested black macaque (Macaca nigra)

Also known as: Celebes black macaque, Celebes crested macaque, Celebes macaque, Sulawesi macaque
French: Cynopithèque Nègre, Macaque Des Célèbes
Spanish: Macaca Negra
GenusMacaca (1)
SizeMale head-body length: 48 – 60 cm (2)
Female head-body length: 44 – 55 cm (2)
Tail length: 1 – 3 cm (2)
Male weight: 5.9 – 10.4 kg (2)
Female weight: 3.6 – 5.5 kg (2)

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

Macaques are medium-sized to large-sized monkeys with stocky bodies. Some, like this species, possess only a very short rudimentary tail that has led in the past to the misidentification and naming of some macaques as apes, which completely lack tails (4). The crested black macaque is the most endangered of the seven macaque species found on the island of Sulawesi (formerly Celebes) in Indonesia (2) (5). This species is entirely black apart from its rump, which is a distinctive pink colour. In males the posterior is small and heart-shaped, and in females it is large, rounded and a darker pink (5). Its face is elongated with close-set brown eyes, and prominent ridges down the side of the nose (6). The body hair is quite sleek, though on the head it forms a distinctive punk-like crest, referred to by the common name, crested black macaque (4).

This species is endemic to Indonesia, where it occurs in north-eastern Sulawesi and on the adjacent islands of Pulau Lembeh, Pulau Manadotua and Pulau Talise; introduced to Pulau Bacan by humans (2).

The crested black macaque inhabits primary and secondary tropical rainforest (2).

Crested black macaques are social monkeys and, before their decline in the wild, were often seen in groups of up to 100 individuals (5). At present they are found in smaller groups. During the day they split into smaller units of 10 to 25 individuals, led by dominant males who police the group and prevent serious fights developing. They feed on figs, other fruit, vegetation, insects and small animals such as mice, crabs and lizards (6). Sometimes food is not eaten immediately but is stored in cheek pouches for a while. Individuals in the group maintain relationships by grooming each other and communicating vocally with grunts (4). Adult males ‘yawn’ to display their large canine teeth in order to assert dominance and avoid conflict (5).

Breeding is non-seasonal and therefore occurs at any time of year. Females come into oestrous every 33 to 36 days and advertise their fertility with swollen pink bottoms. The females are monopolised by the group’s dominant male, and after a gestation period of five and a half months a single infant is born (5). The offspring reach sexual maturity at four to six years and may live for up to 25 years (5).

This primate is threatened by over-hunting for food in Sulawesi where its meat is considered a delicacy. Its habitat is also threatened by human settlement, land clearing for agriculture and logging. While this is a problem in many areas worldwide, Sulawesi is particularly sensitive as it is an island and therefore has a limited amount of land for its wildlife and expanding human population (4).

International trade in this species is prohibited by its listing on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3). Hunting on the island, however, is harder to regulate. This macaque is found in three areas on the island where hunting, logging and clearing is illegal. However, it is not clear how effective these regulations are (4). Captive breeding of this species has been successful at Jersey Zoo and a number of other zoos, and individuals may be reintroduced into the wild in the future. If this species is to survive, it is essential to address the problems of hunting and habitat loss on Sulawesi (5).

For more information on the crested black macaque see:


Authenticated (10/12/05) by Matt Richardson, independent primatologist and writer.

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2008)
  2. Richardson, M. (2005) Pers. comm.
  3. CITES (January, 2004)
  4. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (January, 2004)
  6. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.