The Bonnet macaque is one of the 22 macaque species found in nature. The Bonnet macaque got its name because of the funny way their hair is laid on their head, which resembles a bonnet or hat. Their body length ranges from 35 - 60cm, with tail length of 35 - 68cm. The size of a medium sized dog. The males weigh with average weights of 5.5 to 9 kg, while the females weigh only 4 kg. They are fully covered with grey/brownish hair except for their faces. The females can be recognised by their red faces.
One of the most amazing fact we found is that their lifespan is an average of 30 years.
While my good friend Robert was having his lunch in the Garden, some monkey was doing his monkey business at the office garbage disposal. A very nice shot.
photo credit: Robert van Harten
Another two monkeys visiting our office during lunchtime.
photo credit: Robert van Harten
It is a fruit-eating species, which they have readily proven in the Garden. But they also eat insects, leaves, nuts, flowers, seeds and cultivated crops such as: grain, rice, peanuts, squash, coconuts, coffeebeans and sugarcane.
These very adaptable primates are distributed all over India and are found almost everywhere, in their preferred wet deciduous forests at 2200m height, but also in the tropical dry evergreen forests along the Tamil Nadu coastline, the small local temples, inside the cities and villages and of course migrating through the fence in our own Garden. In the daytime they will be most active and will be found on the ground and in the trees. At night-time they will sleep inside the trees or bamboofence.
They live in groups consisting of both males and females, a so-called multi-male multi-female social system. Such groups consist from 3 to 80 members. In the Gardens case 15 members. Most of the times the males will leave the group they are born in before adolescence. The females will stay in their natal group. Because of this you the hierarchy in such a group is mostly defined by the females.
The macaques have mating rituals resembling our own human rituals in a way. The females will let the males know that they are ready for copulation by showing of their behinds. The male will react by tongue flicking. The tongue will go in and out rapidly while grinning with mouth open or closed.
If a female is pregnant she will bare the baby for 165 days (5.5 months) and will only give birth to one young.
They have several ways of communication, which express themselves in behaviours. You have affiliate behaviours including bite gently, cheek-touch, follow, friendly approach, grapple, grunt, hold, huddle, hug with lip-smacking, hug without lip-smacking, nibble, nuzzle, pat, pull close, raise eyebrows, seek grooming, seek support, sit in contact, sleep together and touch. These behaviours are to become accepted and earn friendship from fellow monkeys.
Then you have the aggressive communication, communication to show dominance. This is expressed in contact aggression and non-contact aggression. Contact aggression includes the more severe acts of bite hard, chase, hold down, pinch, pull roughly, push, and slap. Non contact aggression includes the relatively milder acts of aggressive scream, bared-teeth display, eye-flash, ground-slap, head-jerk, lunge, open-mouth, threat, stare, and warning growl.
The warning growl, which they make if approached by an non-group member. Its very distinct and they always start doing this if approached by us or the dogs.
Another communication method is sniffing, a very important tool to show dominance. In bonnet macaque culture the sniffer will be the dominant member.
By retracting the lips and showing the teeth it creates its fear grimace, a very well-known and effective communication method. Its function is to reduce aggression in the aggressor.
The stare with open mouth look is used to threaten fellow primates or other animals including us. In this case they dont show their teeth, but just stare intensely and keep their mouth open.
Neck chewing is a morning greeting between male macaques and is only done by dominant males to lesser subordinate males.
It has been difficult to take some good clear pictures of these primates, because they are very afraid of the dogs and people (this mostly because they get chased away with fireworks). I have got two pictures of Gardens own Bonnet macaque. One is quit close and clear. The other picture is of a macaque at the top of the fence, you can see its silhouette. I have added the third picture (wikipedia) to give a more clear picture of this creature.