Keeping Up with Lion-Tailed Macaques

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We have a troop of six lion-tailed macaques (one male and five females) at the San Diego Zoo. They have a beautiful habitat on the Sun Bear Trail in the Asian Passage zone. These energetic monkeys are very entertaining to watch: they love ripping boxes and bags open to see what’s inside, like opening a present. The troop likes to keep busy, so we provide enrichment for them at least three times a day.

Their food is presented differently every day, too. They get fed five times a day and, as a Zoo visitor, you can watch them hunt and manipulate their food and enrichment twice a day. The first feeding and enrichment is in the morning between 8 and 10, and the second is in the afternoon between 1 and 2:30. Don’t worry if you miss their release onto exhibit, because they can be found throughout the day foraging for food, hunting for insects, grooming each other, and interacting with their enrichment—such fun to watch!

Antoinette, Adam, and Etienne

Antoinette, Adam, and Etienne

Each macaque has a distinct personality trait. See if you can find these individuals on your next Zoo visit:

Adam is the dominant male and is the oldest macaque in our troop, born at the Woodland Park Zoo in 1984. He has two distinct characteristics to his personality: easy going or mischievous. Adam is kind of aloof to or confused by the female dynamics of this troop. He is a very good-looking male lion-tailed macaque, and he is unmistakable on exhibit as he is significantly larger than the females.

Etienne is the dominant female, born at the Wild Animal Park in 1994. She is strong, VERY confident, and acts as if she believes herself to be the troop’s boss. No one challenges Etienne: she is “Number One” in the troop. Etienne rules mostly by dominance displays rather than aggressive threats. She walks with a strut and can easily be identified by the way she carries herself on exhibit. Etienne is very beautiful and has the shiniest coat.

Antoinette (pictured above) is just under Etienne in the troop’s social ranking, yet she is the largest of the females. She will displace lower-ranking females to keep her “Number Two” spot, mostly by aggressive threatening. Antoinette is always hunting, either for browse she can reach or insects she can find. She really enjoys playing with all the enrichment she gets. Antoinette can be identified by her large size and shorter tail. Born at the Wild Animal Park in 1992, she is the largest female. Antoinette has the same father as Etienne.

Marie is the oldest female, born at the Zoo in 1986. She is very wise and confident but stays out of the way. In her day, she was the dominant female of her own troop. Today, when challenged by the other females, Marie, who is the smallest and is out-weighed by several kilograms, will hold her own and not back down. Etienne is respectful of Marie, usually does not displace her, and will defend her, if necessary. Marie is significantly smaller than the others, and her middle finger on her right hand does not bend. She has the same mother as Etienne.

Jean is laid back and independent. She is leery of the other females and likes to stay on the outskirts. Basically, Jean does her own thing. Upon release to the exhibit after I’ve prepared it, Jean will head straight for the upper part by traveling on the ground instead of on the “furniture” in the exhibit. She is very submissive to Etienne, although she is the second-largest female. Jean has a box-shaped body. She was born at the Wild Animal Park in 1989.

Grace is the lowest-ranking female; she gets displaced by the other females, mainly because she does NOT stay out of their way. She includes herself in everything! Grace is very defensive, even when she is not being challenged; she will often challenge her keepers rather than the other females in the troop, and she seems to gain confidence by doing so. Grace has a bald patch on her back and a slight curve to her back. Born at the Zoo in 1987, she, Antoinette, and Jean have the same mother, Ginger.

Beth McDonald is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Gibbon Siblings Reunited.