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Bonnet Macaque: Reproduction & Behavior

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson, you will learn about the bonnet macaque, a type of monkey that lives in India. We will take a look at their reproduction and infant care, as well as their social behaviors.

Seasonal Babies

When is your birthday? How about your best friend's birthday? If you think about it, you can probably name people who were born in every month of the year. Now, imagine if everyone's birthday fell during the same three months. That's what it is like for the bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata)! Bonnet macaques (named for the tuft of hair on their head, which looks like a hat) are a species of monkey that live in the Western Ghat mountains of India. These brown and white monkeys give birth seasonally, which means they always give birth during the same time of year.

In India, the rainy season is between July and September, and this is when plants grow the best and produce the most food. Bonnet macaques give birth between February and April. These monkeys nurse for about six or seven months, which means they are weaned (they stop nursing) and move to solid food during and just after the wet season when more food is available. Giving birth seasonally helps animals like the bonnet macaque ensure there will be enough food for their babies.

Bonnet macaques give birth seasonally.
Bonnet macaque

Reproduction and Infant Care

Bonnet macaques are able to mate after they are three years old, and females usually have their first baby at age four. Their gestation period, the period of time they carry the baby before giving birth, is six months. This long gestation period, plus the six or seven month period macaque babies nurse results in female macaques having a baby once a year or once every other year at most. Typically one bonnet macaque will have five babies during her 30-year lifespan.

While it is nursing, a baby bonnet macaque stays with its mother, riding on her back or in her arms. It will continue to rely on her for food for a while even after it is weaned. Bonnet macaques are not completely independent until they are about a year old.

Bonnet macaques are protective parents, and the whole group helps watch out for the safety of the babies. If an infant is separated from the group, young males and one or more females will go out and retrieve it. Mothers often hold their babies in their arms. She will endanger herself to get her baby back if they are apart when the group is threatened.

Life in a Temple

This species lives in groups of about 30 individuals, and they have no problem living near humans. Have you heard of the temples in India that are full of monkeys? Bonnet macaques are one of these monkeys! They live in the protected temple areas and eat food left as offerings by temple visitors. They are also fed by tourists, and they dig through trash, go into gardens, and even enter houses in search of food.

Female bonnet macaques usually stay in the group they were born into, and they form close bonds with their family members. Males, on the other hand, typically leave. Some stay alone for a while before joining another group, while others go straight from their birth group to a new one.

The groups are mixed male and female and have a hierarchy based on age. Older monkeys are dominant, and dominant males mate with dominant females. However, males and females of all ranks still mate, and dominant and non-dominant macaques interact freely in other aspects of life.

Bonnet macaques sometimes live in Indian temples.
Bonnet macaques in temple

Social Behavior

Bonnet macaques are social creatures that seem to form close bonds with their permanent group members.

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