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NORTHERN AND SOUTERN PIG TAILED MACAQUES

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NORTHERN AND SOUTERN PIG TAILED MACAQUES

It was always thought until recently that Northern and Southern Pigtail along with Pagai Island and Siberia Macaques were all subspecies of each other. Subspecies meaning, they had slightly variations due to environment and diet of the one species. This is now not the case and all four are listed as separate species. Because of this a lot of information that I found on Pigtails did not define which species they studied. I could only find one study that observed Pigtails in the wild. Everything else was on large groups in captivity. The best way to tell them apart is the Southern pigtails fur is olive brown with a white under belly and the patch on the top of their head is brown. The Northern pigtails fur is golden brown with dark brown or black patch on the top of their head. But the most distinctive difference is the Northern pigtail has what appears to be eyeliner. A line that extends from the corner of the eye all the way back to the ear.
All the babies are born with dark fur that starts to lighten around three months of age. Their life span is about 26 years in the wild should they reach maturity and up to 35 years in captivity. Males can weigh anything up to 14kg and females weighing up to 10kg. They have slender bodies with long legs and arms. Which helps them to maneuver gracefully through the trees. They have wide chests and walk on all fours. According to Wikipedia Northern Pigtails are found throughout Asia, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Southern Pigtails, also known as Sundaland Pig-tailed Macaque and Sunda Pig-tailed Macaques are found in Southern Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Some are also found in Singapore, but they are not native, they are an introduced species to this country. Northern and Southern pigtails both have a similar diet consisting of fruit, insects, small lizards, seeds, dirt, leaves, fungus, termites, nesting birds and their eggs, even crabs. Both prefer the treetops but forage on the ground. Larger troops with divide into smaller groups to forage during the day.
Pigtails are not overly territorial but will defend their source of food if it is scarce. They are also well known as crop raider even having a few members as lookouts and sounding out a warning to other that humans are coming. Part of the reason for the decline in the number of Pigtails is because they are easily trained, and coconut farmers use them to harvest their crops. Pigtails, like most primates live in troops consisting of an alpha male and high ranked females. Within the troop the high ranked members will all eat first. The alpha females and their offspring are the next in line. Then down the ranks it goes. Lowest ranked members may not get any food at all if food is not abundant, some have even starved to death or killed easily because they do not have the strength to defend themselves. The high-ranking females are usually sisters who tolerant each other and share the roll at the top.
Which is quite different to most monkey troops who have only one out standing female controlling the troop. Males will socially dominate over females but when males gets too aggressive towards the females, they will all band together and protect each other. They live in multiple male and female groups. Females stay with their other female family members and form strong bonds, whereas the males leave the troop when they reach sexual maturity around age 5. When males join another troop even if they have any hierarchy it does not follow them, they will have to join as the lowest rank and work their way back up in rank. Pigtails use a lot of facial expression, body language, grooming and lip-smacking to communicate. They have scent glands at the base of their tail that tells others who they are and where they came from. Smelling or grinning baring their teeth is a sign of submission or fear and usually a way to apologize to avoid getting bitten or attacked. Pigtails are not seasonal breeders and females will mate with many different males in their lifetime. Females are also not known to be picky, so any male with do from the alpha to an adolescent. Anyone who can do the job. Female Pigtails become sexually mature at age three and menstruate each month. Swelling at the base of their tail indicates she is in estrus. They will lip smack over their shoulder and back up to the male so he can see the swelling to show she is ready. Males will pull their ears back and pucker up their lips and take a sniff to see if he is interested. Females usually only have one baby at a time and prefer to have their babies 2 years apart in age. Pregnancy averages 180 days or 6 months. They will nurse and give full time care for the baby for that first year. Most will not separate from the baby for the first month and babies only start to explore the world around them at about five weeks.
Female babies also seem to be a lot more demanding and get feed and nurtured more than males. The assumption is that the female’s offspring will stay with their mothers for the rest of their lives and that mothers gain strong back up in later years during arguments, whereas males move on as the motivation for the difference. The IUCN red list of threatened species 2020 sadly has Northern Pigtails listed as vulnerable and Southern Pigtails listed as endangered. The list was last updated in 2015 which considering this is now (as I am writing this) 2020 it seems like a long time for an endangered animal not to be watched more closely and a lot of people do not believe this is true. But Pigtails are often killed for raiding crops or as food and are widely sot after for the illegal pet trade. Their habits are being cleared for farming and this brings them in closer contact with humans. It would be extremely sad to lose such as beautiful animal and very disappointing to know people knew of their plight but failed to help. Written by Jodie Ann

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