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Five things you probably didn't know about the Sri Lankan Toque Macaque

You’ve no doubt seen these mischievous primates on safaris, wildlife tours in Sri Lanka, or in and around temples, but do you really know them? Here are five things about the Sri Lankan Toque Macaque that you probably didn’t know:

  1. Caste system – In the Monkey Kingdom, troops abide by a strict dominance hierarchy, with the oldest male being the alpha and leader, followed by other adult males, sub-adult males, adult females, and finally juveniles.
  2. Forced to run away – Young male monkeys are forced to abandon their troops when they are between 6 and 8 years of age. Not only does this prevent in-breeding, it also ensures that the current alpha male maintains his position at the top.
  3. Placentas – The post-partum female monkey eats part of her placenta for protein, while the alpha female of the group asserts her dominance by taking the rest for herself!
  4. Facial expressions – The countenance of a Sri Lankan monkey is an important indicator of mood or intent. The fear grimace – which ironically resembles a smile – is actually meant to say sorry or stop a fight from happening! An open-mouth stare without showing teeth is meant as a challenge or threat—ironically resembling a gaze of wonder! 
  5. Verbal communication – As with other species of Sri Lankan Wildlife, animals communicate with a diverse set of calls. The most common vocalisations for the Toque Macaque includes:
  • The Loud Call: Sounded by an alpha male used to maintain adequate spacing between members, and to let his group know that it’s time to move on from their foraging site.
  • The Warning or Alarm Call: Sounded by troop individuals to alert others of potential danger.
  • The Scream Call: Sounded by troop individuals, when approached by an outsider from a different troop.
  • The Food Call: Sounded by troop individuals upon discovering a desirable foraging site, rich with food sources.