The Lion-tailed Macaque (Macaca silenus), or the Wanderoo, is an Old World monkey endemic to the Western Ghats of South India. The hair of the lion-tailed macaque is black. Its outstanding characteristic is the silver-white mane which surrounds the head from the cheeks down to its chin, which gives this monkey its German name Bartaffe – “beard ape”. The hairless face is black in colour. With a head-body length of 42 to 61 cm and a weight of 2 to 10 kg, it ranks among the smaller macaques. The tail is medium in length, about 25 cm, and has a black tuft at the end, similar to a lion’s tail. The male’s tail-tuft is more developed than that of the female.
The lion-tailed macaque is a diurnal rainforest dweller. It is a good climber and spends a majority of its life in the upper canopy of tropical moist evergreen forests. Unlike other macaques, it avoids humans. In group behavior, it is much like other macaques; it lives in hierarchical groups of usually 10 to 20 animals, which consist of few males and many females. It is a territorial animal, defending its area first with loud cries towards the invading troops. If this proves fruitless, it brawls aggressively.
From 1977 to 1980, public concern about the endangered status of lion-tailed macaque became the focal point of Save Silent Valley, India’s fiercest environmental debate of the decade. From 1993 to 1996, 14 troops were observed in Silent Valley National Park, Kerala, one of the most undisturbed viable habitats left for them.
The Western Ghats are home to thousands of animal species including at least 325 globally threatened species. Many are endemic species, especially in the amphibian and reptilian classes. Thirty two threatened species of mammals live in the Western Ghats. Of the 16 endemic mammals, 13 are threatened.
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