Morni Wildlife: Rhesus Macaque

Rhesus macaque/ Rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) is greyish brown in colour with a pink face that is clear of fur. It is about two-feet in size with a tail less than a foot long.  It is diurnal and lives in trees and on the ground. It is mostly herbivorous and feeds largely on fruit (often meeting its water needs from ripe and juicy fruits). It also eat seeds, roots, bark, cereals, termites, beetles and ants. It is known to lick dewdrops from leaves and drink rain water collected in tree hollows. Troops can occasionally be spotted gathered around streams and rivers for drinking water.

Rhesus monkeys move in large troops with females outnumbering the males. The group is led by a sub-group of co-dominant males.

The dominant rhesus monkey will make a silent open mouth stare while standing on all fours with the tail sticking straight out. The less dominant monkey will show submission by making a silent bared teeth face or a fear grimace or by presenting its rump!

The rhesus monkey screams, screeches, pant-threats, growls and barks.

Humans and macaques share 93% of their DNA sequence and the rhesus monkey has been used extensively in medical research including development of vaccines. It has been launched into space by NASA and the Russians!

In India the Rhesus monkeys are revered because of their link to Lord Hanuman and it is a strong taboo to kill a monkey. Large troops of monkeys can be seen at Berwala where devotees of Hanuman can be seen feeding them bananas against the better judgment of the wild-life experts.

Rhesus Macaque at Birshikargarh WLS
Rhesus Macaque at Berwala (Courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

Feeding of monkeys at Berwala