Rhesus Macaque

The Rhesus Macaque, often called the Rhesus Monkey, is one of the best known species of Old World monkeys.

Adult males measure approximately 53 centimeters on average and weigh an average of 7.7 kilograms. Females are smaller, averaging 47 centimeters in length and 5.3 kilograms in weight. This macaque is brown or grey in color and have pink faces which are typically bereft of fur. Its tail is of medium length and averages between 20.7 and 22.9 centimeters. It typically has a lifespan of about 25 years.

The species is native to northern India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burma, Thailand, Afghanistan, southern China, and some neighboring areas.

In nature

Inhabiting arid, open areas, the Rhesus Macaque may be found in grasslands, woodlands, and in mountainous regions up to 2,500 metres in elevation. They are regular swimmers, babies as young as a few days old can swim and adults are known to swim over a half mile between islands, but are often found drowned in small groups where their drinking waters lie. The Rhesus Macaque is noted for its tendency to move from rural to urban areas, coming to rely on handouts or refuse from humans. It has become a pest in some areas, perceived as a possible risk to public health and safety.

A diurnal animal, the Rhesus Macaque is both arboreal and terrestrial; it is mostly herbivorous and feeds on leaves and pine needles, roots, and the occasional insect or small animal. The monkey has specialized pouch-like cheeks, allowing it to temporarily hoard its food. The gathered morsels are eaten sometime later, in safe surroundings.

According to Melnick, Hoelzer, Absher, and Ashley, "The rhesus monkey has the widest geographic ranges of any nonhuman primate," occupying a great diversity of altitudes throughout Central, South, and Southeast Asia.

Feral colonies in the United States

In addition to the Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico colony described above, a colony of rhesus macaques was established in the Silver River State Park in Florida around the spring of 1938. The monkeys were released by a tour boat operator known locally as "Colonel Tooey" to enhance his "Jungle Cruise" ride some time around the Spring of 1938. A traditional story that the monkeys were released for scenery enhancement in the Tarzan movies that were filmed at that location is false, as the only Tarzan movie filmed in the area, 1939's Tarzan Finds a Son! contains no Rhesus Macaques. In addition, various colonies of rhesus and other monkey species are speculated to be the result of zoos and wildlife parks destroyed in hurricanes, most notably Hurricane Andrew.

There is also a notable colony of Rhesus Monkeys on Morgan Island, one of the Sea Islands in the South Carolina Lowcountry. They were imported in the 1970s for use in the local labs and are by all accounts thriving.

Behaviour and Reproduction

Like other macaques, the Rhesus troop comprises a mixture of males and females. The troop may contain up to 180 individuals, but 20 is the average. Females may outnumber the males by a ratio of 4:1. The social hierarchy is also matriarchal, rank dependent on lineage to the lead female. Care of young and territory surveillance duties are shared amongst the troop. While females are more or less placid, males are typically rowdy between themselves. The Rhesus Macaque is characterised as a vociferous monkey. Monkeys that discover food will normally advertise the fact by specific calls, though it has been claimed that young or subordinate monkeys will sometimes seek to avoid doing so if their discovery has gone unobserved. Females cycle similar to humans with menstrual cycles of around 28 days.

Mating is not confined to a specific season. Gestation may last from 135-194 days. Females are mature by three years of age, and males at four. The typical lifespan of a rhesus monkey in captivity is approximately 15–20 years for males and 20–25 years for females. These monkeys rarely live beyond 15 years of age in the wild.



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