Tonkean macaque (Macaca tonkeana)

Also known as: Tonkean black macaque
Synonyms: Macaca hypomelanus, Macaca togeanus, Macaca tonsus
French: Macaque De Tonkea
Spanish: Macaca De Tonkean
GenusMacaca (1)
SizeAverage male weight: 14.9 kg (2)
Average female weight: 9 kg (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

Of all the non-human primate groups, none is more widely distributed than the macaques, a genus of heavy-built, old-world monkeys (4). The Indonesia island of Sulawesi is home to several closely related macaque species, one of which is the Tonkean macaque (1) (2) (4). In common with the other Sulawesi macaques, the Tonkean macaque has strong limbs, a moderately long snout, and a short, inconspicuous tail (2) (5) (6). The pelage of this species is predominately black, with areas of lighter brown on the cheeks and rump (2). On the edges of its range, the Tonkean macaque is known to hybridise with several other Sulawesi macaques, including the booted macaque (Macaca ochreata), the Celebes macaque (M. maura) and Heck’s macaque (M. hecki) (1).

The Tonkean macaque is found throughout central Sulawesi and the nearby Togian Islands, Indonesia (1) (2) (4).

Inhabits rainforest, from sea level up to 2,000 metres (1). 

Except for a handful of recent studies, there has been very little research focusing on the ecology of the Tonkean macaque (1) (4) (7). As a result, there is scant information on this species’ group behaviour, but troops of 10 to 30 individuals, comprising multiple sexually mature adults of both sexes, have been documented (7). Although the Sulawesi macaques are generally considered to be semi-terrestrial (5), the Tonkean macaque appears to spend most of its time moving around in the tree canopy (7). Active during the day, it feeds primarily on fruit, but will also consume leaves, flower-stalks, insects and other invertebrates. In the vicinity of farmland, this species is also known to raid crop plantations for maize, fruit and vegetables, bringing it into direct conflict with human activities (1) (7).

Despite still being common in areas of suitable habitat, the continuous conversion of rainforest into agricultural land, especially for oil palm and cocoa plantations, is having a notable negative impact on the overall population of the Tonkean macaque (1). Furthermore, as the amount of natural habitat diminishes, the Tonkean macaque has become increasingly dependent on crops for survival, resulting in conflict with local farmers, who treat this species as an agricultural pest (1) (7). Other threats include hunting for food and the trapping of wild macaques to keep as pets (1).

In addition to being listed on CITES Appendix II, which prohibits trade in this species without a permit, the Tonkean macaque occurs within several protected areas across it range (1) (3). In order to tackle wildlife crime in Sulawesi, a Wildlife Crimes Unit was established in 2001 by the Indonesian Department of Forestry and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The unit has been highly effective at reducing trade in some protected mammals and is working with local communities to strengthen conservation awareness (8) (9).

For further information on conservation in Sulawesi, visit:

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2009)
  2. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. CITES (November, 2009)
  4. Riley, E.P. (2008) Ranging Patterns and Habitat Use of Sulawesi Tonkean Macaques (Macaca tonkeana) in a Human-Modified Habitat. American Journal of Primatology, 70: 670-679.
  5. Priston, N.E.C. (2005) Crop-Raiding by Macaca ochreata brunnescens in Sulawesi: Reality, Perceptions and Outcomes for Conservation, PhD thesis. University of Cambridge, Cambridge.
  6. Bynum, E. L., Bynum, D.Z. and Supriatna, J. (1997) Confirmation and location of the hybrid zone between wild populations of Macaca tonkeana and Macaca hecki in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. American Journal of Primatology, 43: 181-209.
  7. Pombo, A., Waltert, M., Mansjoer, S.S., Mardiastuti, A. and Muhlenberg, M. (2005) Home range, diet and behaviour of the Tonkean macaque (Macaca tonkeana) in Lore Lindu National Park, Sulawesi. In: Gerold, G., Fremerey, M. and Guhardja, E. (Eds) Land Use, Nature Conservation and the Stability of Rainforest Margins in Southeast Asia. Springer, Berlin.
  8. Lee, R.J., Gorog, A.J., Dwiyahreni, A., Siwu, S., Riley, J., Alexander, H., Paoli, G.D. and Ramono, W. (2005) Wildlife trade and implications for law enforcement in Indonesia: A case study from North Sulawesi. Biological Conservation, 123: 477-488.
  9. Wildlife Conservation Society (November, 2009)