Around Cardamom County, we’re used to seeing bonnet macaques, those overly friendly little grayish-brown rascals that scurry about causing the cute kinds of mischief that might be typical of a cartoon character. More recently, we’ve been visited almost daily by small troops of nilgiri langurs, endangered primates with a little less personality and a bit more intimidation factor. Having grown relatively familiar with these two species, I’d thought I’d seen all the monkeys that the Periyar had to offer. How naïve of me…
Allow me to introduce to you, the lion-tailed macaque.
Found only in the Western Ghats of South India, these monkeys get their name from the bushy blossom of white hair that frames their face, resembling the mane of a male lion (though I’m not sure what that has to do with their tails). The lion-tailed macaques we encountered were bounding about the trees above the cardamom plantation in Gavi, a beautiful trekking location in the hills of the Periyar reserve. The photo above is of one lone male who would not be described as shy. Tomorrow I’ll post more photos and video from Sung’s camera, including footage of another male who munched happily on his spoils of jack fruit while we snapped photos from right underneath him, a proximity about which he was not the least bit fazed. His troop was a little less gallant and swung along to neighboring trees.
To give as scientific a description as I’m qualified to give, I’d say these guys are similar in size and color to nilgiri langurs, though less intimidating, while being cuter and less annoying than their closer relatives the bonnet macaques. The rarity of this species made us feel lucky for having spotted so many of them, and I felt lucky for having discovered my new favorite monkey in the Western Ghats.