The Pigtail Macaque is one of the biggest members of the monkey family. As the name suggests, this monkey has a short tail, which is often rolled up and raised in the air. They have a rather imposing, if not daunting looks, but actually these monkeys are highly intelligent and can easily be tamed.
Pigtail Macaques live in Northeastern India, Burma, Thailand, Sumatra, Borneo and the Malayan Peninsula. They are 47-60 cm long on average, and weigh 4,8 – 13,5 kilograms, while their build is stocky and they are in fact very strong animals. These macaques prefer thick forest growths, where they can easily hide from any danger. It’s interesting that such large monkeys move in the forests almost without any sound, thus they’re can’t often be sighted by humans.
These monkeys live in groups of 16-18 individuals each. Although there are multiple males in the group, there is always one alpha male, who’s in charge of everything the group does. The monkeys also have a strong hierarchic structure with member positions within the group – the higher ranked members are the first ones to feed, which means if the food is scarce, the lower ranking members will starve. This also means that newcomers are not welcome in the group, and they will most often starve to death, as all the other monkeys are higher ranked and don’t allow the newcomer to feed before they have.
Pigtail Macaque is rather selective when searching for food. They prefer places where there is a lot of food in one place, which means that farm areas suit them perfectly. Groups of monkeys often raid crop fields and orchards – while one of the monkey sits in guard post, the others feed. If the guard macaque sees a farmer approaching, the rest of the group is warned with a loud scream and they quickly disappear into the forest. In the forests these monkeys feed on fruits, leaves, bugs and almost any other thing that’s rich in foodstuff.
Macaques know that a female is ready to copulate when her butt turns bright red – a common reason of laugh for many people spotting the monkeys. The mating partner is determined by the female and they are sometimes very selective among all the males. After a gestation period of about six months, a single baby is born. Unlike other species, where all members of the group participate in raising the young one, Pigtail Macaque babies are nursed only by their mother and no one else is allowed to touch the baby. Three weeks after birth the young macaque starts taking walks of his own, while the mother still keeps feeding and looking after him for about six months.
The population of Pigtail Macaques is constantly decreasing, because their meat is considered a delicacy in many regions. It should, however, be noted that because of their intelligence, the macaques are great helpers to many people – botanists train them to bring down leaves and plants from treetops, while other people use macaques to harvest coconuts from trees.