Monkey of the deep jungle

Ecology and conservation of Macaca munzala

In 2004, a new monkey species Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala was discovered from the high altitudes of Western Arunachal Pradesh by the scientists of NCF. Subsequent studies on this species have enriched our understanding of their ecology, demography and their genetic relationship with other macaques

Distribution and conservation status

We conducted field surveys to document the distribution and conservation status of the recently discovered Arunachal macaque, with particular reference to its conflict with the local indigenous people, in central Arunachal Pradesh. Interview surveys were conducted in several districts of the state during last year in an effort to evaluate the conservation strategies that may need to be developed to protect this macaque in the future. 




  • Department of Science and Technology—Government of India
  • International Snow Leopard Trust
  • National Centre for Biological Sciences—Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
  • Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation
  • Whitley Fund for Nature
  • Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program


  • Book Chapter
    Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala (Sinha, Datta, Madhusudan and Mishra 2005)
    Anindya Sinha, Debapriyo Chakraborty, Aparajita Datta, Nabam Gama, R Suresh Kumar, M D Madhusudan, Uttara Mendiratta, Uma Ramakrishnan, Charudutt Mishra
    Pages 198-210 in A. J. T. Johnsingh & N. Manjrekar (editors) Mammals of South Asia – Volume 1. Universities Press, Hyderabad, India
  • Journal Article
    Winter Ecology of the Arunachal Macaque Macaca munzala in Pangchen Valley, Western Arunachal Pradesh, Northeastern India
    Uttara Mendiratta, Ajith Kumar, Charudutt Mishra, Anindya Sinha
    American Journal of Primatology, 71: 939–947

    PDF, 285 KB

    The newly described Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala occurs largely in sub-tropical to temperate environments at elevations of c. 1,800–3,000 m in Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India. We studied its over-wintering strategy by comparing the diet, ranging, and behavior of a troop of 24 individuals during winter and spring (December 2005 to May 2006) through instantaneous scan sampling (3,002 records, 448 scans, 112 hr of observation). We also monitored the phenology of food plants. The macaques spent more time (41–66%) feeding in the winter than in spring (33–51%), whereas time spent moving and resting was greater in spring. The diet composed largely of plants, with animal matter being eaten rarely. The number of plant species in the diet increased from 18 to 25 whereas food types rose from 18 to 36 from winter to spring, respectively. Although only two species formed 75% of the winter diet, seven species comprised this proportion in spring. Availability of fruits and young leaves increased in spring; the troop moved more and utilized a larger part of its range during this time. Seasonal changes in behavior could be explained by the scarcity of food and the costs of thermoregulation in winter. Our study suggests that the Arunachal macaque inhabits a highly seasonal environment and has an over-wintering strategy that includes subsisting on a high-fiber diet by increasing the time spent feeding, and minimising energy expenditure by reducing the time spent moving.

  • Journal Article
    In search of the munzala: distribution and conservation status of the newly-discovered Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala
    R Suresh Kumar, Nabam Gama, R Raghunath, Anindya Sinha, Charudutt Mishra
    Oryx, 42(3): 360–366

    PDF, 298 KB

    The recently-described Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala is so far known only from western Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India. Here we present the first conservation status assessment for the species. Our surveys enumerated a total of 569 individuals in the Tawang and West Kameng districts of the State. The species seems to be tolerant of anthropogenic habitat change but is vulnerable to hunting. A low infant to adult female ratio suggests that not all adult females reproduce at any given time, and females do not give birth every year. The macaques are persecuted largely in response to crop damage, with the practice of keeping them as pets providing an added in- centive to hunting. The species is, however, able to attain remarkably high densities in the absence of hunting. Crop damage by the macaque is widespread; patterns of crop damage are similar across altitudinal zones and do not seem to be correlated with macaque density. The species will need to be protected in human-modified landscapes, and the issues of crop damage and retaliatory persecution need to be addressed urgently.

  • Journal Article
    A Voucher Specimen for Macaca munzala: Interspecific Affinities, Evolution, and Conservation of a NewlyDiscovered Primate
    International Journal of Primatology 29:743–756

    PDF, 344 KB

    Sinha, A., Datta, A., Madhusudan, M. D., & Mishra, C. (2005. Macaca munzala: A new species from western Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India. International Journal of Primatology, 26, 977–989) discovered Arunachal macaques (Macaca munzala), a species new to science, in the eastern Himalaya of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India. They depicted the holotype and paratypes of the species in photographs, and a specimen of the species had been unavailable for preservation and examination. In March 2005, we obtained an entire specimen of an adult male Macaca munzala, which we propose as a voucher specimen for the species. We provide detailed morphological and anatomical measurements of the specimen and examine its affinities with other macaques. Macaca munzala appears to be unique among macaques in craniodental size and structure, baculum, and aspects of caudal structure, while exhibiting affinities with the other members of the sinica-group to which it belongs. We summarize our insights on the origins and phylogeny of Macaca munzala. Finally, we review the current conservation status of the macaques, which are threatened by extensive hunting in the only 2 districts of Arunachal Pradesh where they are documented to occur.

  • Journal Article
    Phylogenetic relationships and morphometric affinities of the Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala, a newly described primate from Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India
    Debapriyo Chakraborty, Uma Ramakrishnan, Jikom Panor, Charudutt Mishra, Anindya Sinha
    Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 44(2): 838–849

    PDF, 388 KB

    A new species of primate, the Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala, belonging to the sinica species-group of the genus, was described from northeastern India in 2005, and, based on its appearance and distribution, hypothesised to be closely related to M. assamensis and M. thibetana. We subsequently obtained an entire adult male specimen and tissue remains from two other M. munzala individuals. Molecular analyses establish the distinct identity of the species and indicate a time of origin of c. 0.48 mya for it. The species also shows close phylogenetic affinities with the allopatric M. radiata and with the geographically closer M. assamensis and M. thibetana, possibly mediated by male introgression from an ancestral M. assamensis–M. thibetana stock into an ancestral M. munzala stock. Morphometric analyses, on the other hand, reiterate its close similarity only with M. assamensis and M. thibetana, presumably resulting from convergent evolution under similar ecological conditions and along a latitudinal gradient, as predicted by Bergmann’s and Allen’s rules.

  • Journal Article
    Foraging ecology and time-activity budget of the Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala – A preliminary study
    Current Science, 93 (4): 532

    The Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala was discovered in 2003 from the high altitudes of western Arunachal Pradesh, and described as a new species in 2005. Vir- tually nothing is yet known of this new macaque spe- cies. In order to generate scientific knowledge on this primate, a field study was conducted to collect infor- mation on its ranging patterns, diet and behaviour. Two multimale multifemale troops were observed for a pe- riod of 112 h in Zemithang valley, Tawang District. The two troops, consisting of 22 and 13 individuals re- spectively, spent on an average, 48% of the observed time in moving and foraging, 36% in sitting and rest- ing, and 16% in social interactions. Foraging alone accounted for 29% of the time-activity budget and was the major activity of the macaques throughout the study. The troops had home ranges of 28 ha and 16 ha respectively, much smaller than those of other ma- caque species studied in similar environments else- where. The macaques ranged largely in the secondary scrub habitat in the study area, where they were ob- served to feed mainly on Elaeagnus parvifolia and Erythrina arborescens. Although fruits of the former species constituted more than 65.8% of the overall diet, this largely frugivorous diet is likely to be seasonal. Our preliminary results suggest the ranging and forag- ing behaviour of the Arunachal macaque to be largely in response to food resource availability. The species also appears to be a typical member of the sinica spe- cies-group of the genus in exhibiting a matrifocal society with tolerant social relationships.

  • Journal Article
    Distribution and Conservation Status of the Arunachal Macaque, Macaca munzala, in Western Arunachal Pradesh, Northeastern India
    Anindya Sinha, R Suresh Kumar, Nabam Gama, M D Madhusudan, Charudutt Mishra
    Primate Conservation Vol 21: 145–148

    PDF, 274 KB

    The recently described Arunachal macaque, Macaca munzala, has to date been reported only from western Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Himalaya. Our surveys have recorded a total of 35 troops and 569 individuals, probably a conservative estimate, for the macaque population in the Tawang and West Kameng districts of the state. The species appears to be tolerant to anthropo- genic habitat change, but is vulnerable to hunting and retaliatory killing in response to crop damage. Data from one part of the area surveyed, however, indicate that the species can attain remarkably high population densities in the absence of hunting. Macaca munzala will need to be protected in human-modified landscapes, and the issues of crop damage and retaliatory persecution must be addressed urgently.

  • Journal Article
    Macaca munzala: A New Species from Western Arunachal Pradesh, Northeastern India
    International Journal of Primatology 26(4): xxx-xxx

    PDF, 695 KB

    Macaca, comprising 20 well-characterized species, represents the largest and one of the most ecologically and socially diverse of all the nonhuman primate genera. We report the discovery of a macaque that is new to science from the high altitudes of western Arunachal Pradesh, a biodiversity-rich state in northeastern India. We propose the scientific name Macaca munzala and the vernacular name Arunachal macaque for the species. It shares morphological characteristics independently with the Assamese macaque (Macaca assamensis) and with the Tibetan macaque M. thibetana; like them, it appears to belong to the sinica species-group of the genus. However, the species is distinctive in relative tail length, which is intermediate between those of Tibetan and Western Assamese macaques, the subspecies with which it is sympatric. It is also unique in its altitudinal distribution, occurring largely at altitudes between 2000 and 3500 m. We provide a morphological characterization of the species, report preliminary data on its field biology and discuss possible taxonomic identity in relation to the other closely-related species of Macaca.

Did you know your internet explorer is out of date?

To access our website you should upgrade to a newer version or other web browser.

How to do that »