Rhesus Monkey (Macaca mulatta)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family:    Cercopithecidae
Size:    Height: 25 inches (63.5 cm)
Weight: 13 to 22 pounds (6 to 10 kg)
Diet: Roots, herbs, vegetables, insects, clover, pine needles, oak leaves and small mammals
Distribution: Afghanistan, northern India, Myanmar (Burma), China, Florida, West Indies and Brazil
Young:  1
Animal Predators:  Unknown 
IUCN Status: Lower Risk, Near Threatened
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: Approximately 4 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity



       Hindus view rhesus monkeys as sacred animals.

       They are used extensively for biological, medicinal and psychological research.

       These intelligent monkeys were once trained for use in circuses and as organ grinderís monkeys.

       Rhesus monkeys were the first monkeys to be launched into outer space in rockets.



Rhesus monkeys have long, thick, silky fur. Their shoulders are grey, their back is light brown and they have a pale grey or white belly. They are distinguished from other monkeys by their orange-coloured rump. There is no fur on their face. Their have a fur-covered tail. 



The largest populations of rhesus monkeys are found in Afghanistan, India and northern Thailand. They used to be abundant in southern China and Tibet, but numbers have dwindled over the last 65 years. During the summer, they may migrate, ascending the Himalayas to an elevation of up to 9843 feet (3000 m). They live in non-territorial groups, and several groups may overlap in a certain area. Rhesus monkeys adapt well to a wide range of habitats, from the hot, dry temperatures of the desert to colder, winter temperatures. Some groups of monkeys have adapted to living within close proximity of humans and when relocated into the wilderness, will eventually return or find other areas populated by humans.


Feeding Habits

They eat a variety of foods including roots, herbs, vegetables, insects, clover, pine needles, oak leaves and sometimes small mammals. They are mainly ground foragers. 



Breeding can occur year round, but the main mating season depends on the climate. In cold areas, mating occurs in the fall, with the young born in the spring. Menstrual cycles are similar to that of humans, lasting 26 to 28 days. In general, rhesus monkeys, particularly the males, are very promiscuous as they try to mate with as many partners as possible. Pregnancy lasts five to six months and the female gives birth to one baby. The young monkey and mother form a close, loving bond. The baby nurses for one year and eventually learns how to get its own food by imitating its mother. Infants who become separated from their mother become terrified and make soft cooing sounds to get her attention. Females stay with their motherís group, while young males leave to join another group.



Rhesus monkeys live in groups of 10 to 200, formed of closely related females and a few unrelated males. Other groups contain juvenile and bachelor males. Males are aggressive with each other, often getting into competitions to determine dominance. Females live in harmony and are rarely involved in violent confrontations. Rhesus monkeys communicate using facial gestures and a variety of sounds to express various emotions.  These monkeys are very active and loud animals who love swimming and climbing.  They are alert and use visual and vocal signs to communicate. They also enjoy grooming each other. Extensive research on captive animals has determined that they are highly intelligent, able to count and to communicate with humans. 



Rhesus monkeys are held sacred in many parts of India, and large groups of them live near Buddhist or Hindu temples, where monks treat them with affection. They have been used in research to an extent that their population has become greatly diminished, prompting India to bar their exportation.









Rhesus Monkey Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US