Stump-tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides)
|Also known as:||Bear macaque|
|Synonyms:||Macaca brunneus, Macaca harmandi, Macaca melanotus, Macaca melli, Macaca rufescens, Macaca speciosus, Macaca ursinus|
|Size||Male head-body length: 52 – 65 cm (2)|
Female head-body length: 48 – 59 cm (2)
Tail length: 0.3 – 6.9 cm (2)
Male weight: 9.9 - 10.2 kg (2)
Female weight: 7.5 - 9.1 kg (2)
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
Described as ‘charming and childlike in their docility and affection’, infant stump-tailed macaques were once, sadly, kept as pets (4). The stump-tailed macaque, also known as the bear macaque, begins life with white, fluffy fur, but as it matures a thick, shaggy, dark brown fur develops on its body, excluding the face and tail. As in humans, this macaque is known to lose body hair as it ages and can even end up bald. Its tail is so small that it can often appear absent, and this similarity in appearance to the tailless apes has resulted in the stump-tailed macaque being frequently called a ‘miniature chimp’ (5). The stump-tailed macaque is sometimes also called the ‘red-faced monkey’, which describes this macaque’s bright pink or red face. This bright colouring fades with age, becoming brown and black in response to sunlight (2). Males are considerably larger than females (2) and also possess longer canine teeth; a feature which is used as a measure of dominance within social groups (6).
The stump-tailed macaque is endemic to Southeast Asia. Its range extends from north-eastern India, through Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, parts of the Malay Peninsula and Vietnam, to southern China (7) (8).
The stump-tailed macaque is predominantly found in primary forests (9), from dense evergreen forests below 1,500 metres, to subtropical evergreen forests between 1,800 and 2,500 metres. It is also known to occur in the dry mountainous regions of the Himalayas at the edge of its range in India (10).
The stump-tailed macaque has a diet largely comprised of fruit, seeds, young leaves and other vegetation, but it is also known to eat insects, bird eggs, frogs and crabs (7) (9) (11). It spends the daytime foraging for food and stores the food it collects in cheek pouches, which are a common feature of the Macaca genus. Although the stump-tailed macaque can climb trees it is typically terrestrial and far more agile on the ground (12).
The stump-tailed macaque typically lives in groups of around 20 to 50, of both sexes. Within the group there is a strong hierarchy where status is inherited from the mother, and new males entering a group must fight to acquire their position in the ranks. However, the stump-tailed macaque is a relatively peaceful species compared with other macaques and a process of reconciliation often follows conflict. This can involve the presentation of their rump to the dominant male of the group and is usually met with a response such as ‘lip smacking’ (16). The stump-tailed macaque is known to have numerous vocalisations including the friendly ‘coo’ used to initiate grooming and communicate with the group (11).
Following sexual maturity males tend to leave the group in which they were born, while females usually remain. The female usually gives birth to a single young after a gestation period of 166 to 185 days (about six months). Females characteristically give birth every two years and the task of caring for infants is shared among the group (14) (15). The stump-tailed macaque may live for up to 30 years, although a lifespan this long is more common for captive individuals than those in the wild (13).
The stump-tailed macaque is threatened throughout large parts of its range and has become locally extinct in places where it used to thrive (1). In most areas, habitat destruction and hunting are the primary reasons for the decline of this species. Logging and timber extraction pose serious threats and are responsible for much of the loss of stump-tailed macaque habitat, while other habitat disturbances such as forest fragmentation and deliberately started fires also have detrimental effects. The stump-tailed macaque is also extensively hunted in many regions for meat or use in traditional medicines and remedies, a practice which is particularly common in Vietnam and China (17).
This species is critically endangered in India due to jhum farming practises, otherwise known as shifting cultivation, where large areas of forest are cleared. This, together with extensive hunting, has pushed the stump-tailed macaque to the brink of extinction in this country (18).
The stump-tailed macaque is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that any international trade in this species should be carefully monitored (3). In India, the stump-tailed macaque is legally protected and vast areas of forest have been declared nature reserves, although this protection is not well enforced and the hunting of the stump-tailed macaque continues (13). Surveys have shown that local people are unaware of this species’ protected status and hunt it unknowingly. Thankfully, the immense size of protected areas prevents local people from reaching deep into the forest and provides a safe haven for some stump-tailed macaques. Further protected land is vital if the decline in numbers is to be reversed and educational projects need to be put in place to raise awareness of this macaque’s protected status (13).
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- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Evergreen forests: forests consisting mainly of evergreen trees, which retain leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous trees, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
- Genus: a category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Gestation: the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Primary forests: forests that have remained undisturbed for a long time and have reached a mature condition.
IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
- Fa, J.E. (1989) The genus Macaca: a review of taxonomy and evolution. Mammal Review, 19(2): 45–81.
CITES (March, 2010)
- Licek, D. (1968) The Monkey Manual. T.F.H. Publications, New York.
Cawthon Lang, K.A. (2005) Primate Factsheets: Stump-tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides). Primate Info Net, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Available at:
- Fooden, J. (1990) The bear macaque, Macaca arctoides: a systematic review. Journal of Human Evolution, 19: 607-86.
- Groves, C. (2001) Primate Taxonomy. Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington D.C.
- Srivastava A. (1999) Primates of Northeast India. Megadiversity Press, Bikaner, India.
- Gupta A.K. (2002). Non-human primates of India: an introduction. In: Gupta A.K. (Ed.) Non-Human Primates of India. ENVIS Bulletin, Wildlife and Protected Areas, Dehradun, India.
- Rowe, N. (1996) The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates. Pogonias Press, New York.
- Fleagle, J.G. (1988). Primate Adaptation and Evolution. Academic Press, New York.
- Choudhury, A. (2002) Status and conservation of the stump-tailed macaque Macaca arctoidesin India. Primate Report, 63: 63-72.
- Brereton, A.R. (1994) Copulatory behavior in a free-ranging population of stumptail macaques (Macaca arctoides) in Mexico. Primates, 35(2): 113-22.
- Estrada, A. and Estrada, R. (1984) Female-infant interactions among free-ranging stumptail macaques (Macaca arctoides). Primates, 25(1): 48-61.
- Maestripieri, D. (1996) Social communication among captive stump-tailed macaques (Macaca arctoides). International Journal of Primatology, 17(5): 785-802.
- Molur, S., Brandon-Jones, D., Dittus, W., Eudey, A., Kumar, A., Singh, M., Feeroz, M.M., Chalise, M., Priya, P. and Walker, S. (2003) Status of South Asian Primates: Conservation Assessment and Management Plan Report. Zoo Outreach Organization/CBSG-South Asia, Coimbatore, India.
- Srivastava, A. and Mohnot, S.M. (2001). Distribution, conservation status and priorities for primates in Northeast India. In: Gupta A.K. (Ed.) Non-Human Primates of India. ENVIS Bulletin, Wildlife and Protected Areas, Dehradun, India.