This taxon occurs in Bangladesh, Bhutan, southwestern China (Guangxi, Guizhou, Tibet and Yunnan), northeastern India (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, northwestern Thailand, and northern Viet Nam. It is found from central Nepal east into northern Myanmar and southeast through southernmost China to the upper Mekong in Tibet, and in the east into southern Guizhou to Hoi Xuan in Viet Nam and Thateng in Lao PDR; the range continues south through the Myanmar/Thailand border ranges as far as Chongkrong, as well as to the Sunderbans in Bangladesh. There is a gap in northeastern India between the two main population pockets, specifically between central Bhutan and the south side of the Brahmaputra; the east bank of its upper course, the Dhibang, marks the division between the two subspecies (Groves 2001).
M. a. assamensis
This taxon occurs in Bhutan, southwestern China (Guangxi, Guizhou, Tibet, and Yunnan), northeastern India (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura), northern Lao PDR, Myanmar, northwestern Thailand, and northern Viet Nam. Found north along the Dihang River and its Tibetan tributary the Ngagong (Groves 2001).
M. a. pelops
This taxon occurs in Bangladesh, Bhutan, northern India (Assam, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal) and Nepal. Found from central Nepal through Sikkim and northernmost West Bengal into central Bhutan and the Sunderbans; apparently occurs as well north of the Himalayan crest in the Bhong Valley (Groves 2001).
Habitat and Ecology
It is found in tropical and subtropical semi-evergreen forests, dry deciduous and montane forest (Srivistava and Mohnot 2001; R. Boonratana pers. comm.). Particular habitats and niches vary some depending on the subspecies. This species is found from the floodplains to the high mountains, up to 2,800 m, and sometimes 3,000 m in the summer (Choudhury 2001), and perhaps up to 4,000 m (Srivastava and Mohnot 2001; Zhang et al. 2002). It is generally an upland species, and usually associated with hill areas above 1,000 m. In the wetter east the species may also frequent areas that do not or only marginally reach 1,000 m and may occur even in the lowlands. In Lao PDR and Viet Nam the species is predominantly associated with high altitudes, usually above 500 m. In forests on limestone karst the species occurs in much lower elevations (R. Timmins pers. comm.). The generation of this species is 10-12 years (Molur et al. 2003)
Life History and Behavior
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
The subspecies M. a. assamensis is relatively widespread in its extent of occurrence (Molur et al. 2003). In Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh, India, the population was found to have a group density of 1.11/km2, and an average group size of 13.93 individuals (Chetry et al. 2003). This species is the most abundant monkey in the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh (Choudhury 2001). In China, there are estimated to be over 3,000 individuals (Zhang et al. 2002).
The subspecies M. a. pelops is only found in adjacent populations in India, Bhutan, and adjacent China. There are likely less than 1,000 individuals remaining (Zhang et al. 2002).
A subpopulation of M. assamensis is endemic to Nepal and relegated to a single population there, and is considered as a possible new subspecies (M. Chalise pers. comm.). However, further taxonomic clarification is needed.
Habitat destruction poses the greatest risk to this species in northeastern India (Srivistava and Mohnot 2001). However, it has been hunted in the Himalayan regions of North Bengal, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh, where it frequently invades crops (Srivistava and Mohnot 2001). Locals use skulls as an “evil eye” in front of houses in northeastern India (Das pers. comm.). There has been extensive habitat loss over the last 15 years in several states of northeastern India (from 30-60%), with major impacts on M. a. assamensis.
The Nepal population of Macaca assamensis is threatened due to its restricted distribution of less than 2,200 km2 extent of occurrence and 914 km2 area of occupancy and continuing decline in area, extent and quality of habitat, the number of locations and in the number of mature individuals—the latter two conditions being inferred from threats to habitat and population from degradation and hunting, respectively. Given its restricted extent of occurrence, threats on its population and habitat, and small numbers in fragmented patches, the Nepal population of this macaque is categorized as Endangered.
In Thailand habitat loss is the primary threat, hunting for food less so (R. Boonratana pers. comm.). It is protected only in temples.
In eastern Myanmar habitat loss is the primary threat, but hunting is presumed to occur. They are hunted to make footwear, and the skins are taken to Tibet as it is more profitable than taking it to Yunnan province of China. In northern Myanmar, hunting and habitat loss due to conversion are the major threats. There is more than 30% decline in forest cover over the last 30-35 years. The combination of habitat loss and hunting heavily impacts the subpopulations, and the threats are likely to continue in the next three decades if the demand for this continues in Tibet (S. Htun pers. comm.).
In Lao PDR and Viet Nam the primary threat is hunting for food and for bones to make balm and/or glue. The bones are not used within Lao PDR, but sold to Viet Namese and traders within Lao PDR. The balm is used for pain relief and other speculative “medicinal” purposes. The trade also goes into China (R. Boonratana pers. comm.). This species has declined in Viet Nam and Lao PDR in the last 30-35 years by more than 30%, and is expected to continue to decline in the future.
In Tibet the habitat is good, but there is some hunting, and no detailed data exists for M. a. pelops from that region of China (Z. Zhou et al. pers. comm.). For M. a. assamensis, hunting is a major threat. Logging has ceased, but was a major threat for the last 30 years. Conversion to pastures is still ongoing, but not a significant threat. There are extensive habitats still left for this subspecies and the taxon is relatively safe.
The species has been recorded from at least 41 protected areas in northeastern India, and maybe four others (Choudhury 2001), and may also be found in the following protected areas: Nam Ha National Biodiversity Conservation Area (Lao PDR); Langtang National Park, Makalu Barun National Park (Nepal); Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, Huay Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Phu Khieo Widlife Sanctuary (Thailand); Pu Mat National Park (Viet Nam).
The Assam macaque (Macaca assamensis) is a macaque of the Old World monkey family native to South and Southeast Asia. Since 2008, the species is listed as Near Threatened by IUCN, as it is experiencing significant declines due to hunting, habitat degradation and fragmentation.
The Assam macaque has a yellowish-grey to dark brown pelage. The facial skin is dark brownish to purplish. The head has a dark fringe of hair on the cheeks directed backwards to the ears. The hair on the crown is parted in the middle. The shoulders, head and arms tend to be paler than the hindquarters, which are greyish. The tail is well-haired and short. Head-to-body-length measures 51 to 73.5 cm (20 to 28.9 in), and the tail is 15 to 30 cm (5.9 to 12 in) long. Adult weight is 5 to 10 kg (11 to 22 lb).
Distribution and habitat
The Macaca assamensis population is endemic to Nepal and likely in some way distinct from the two recognized subspecies, which occupy adjacent areas to the southeast and east of the range of M. assamensis. There is a gap in northeastern India between the two main population pockets, specifically between central Bhutan and the south side of the Brahmaputra River; the east bank of its upper course marks the division between the two recognized subspecies:
- The eastern Assamese macaque, M. a. assamensis, occurs in Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura in northeastern India, into northern Myanmar, southeast through the Myanmar-Thailand border ranges as far as Chongkrong, to the upper Mekong in Tibet, into the provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou, Tibet and Yunnan in southwestern China, in Thateng in northern Laos, and Hoi Xuan in northern Vietnam;
- The western Assamese macaque, M. a. pelops, is found from central Nepal through Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Assam and northernmost West Bengal in northern India, into central Bhutan and the Sundarbans in Bangladesh.
During surveys carried out in 1976, 1978, and 1984 in Nepal, Assam macaques were found to be patchily distributed along rivers in tropical and subtropical forests at altitudes from 200 to 1,800 metres (660 to 5,900 ft). They are apparently absent from areas west of the Kaligandaki River. In India, they live in tropical and subtropical semievergreen forests, dry deciduous and montane forests, from the sea level to altitudes of 4,000 metres (13,000 ft). They usually inhabit hill areas above 1,000 m (3,300 ft), but in the wetter east they may occur even in the lowlands, and frequent areas that only marginally reach this altitude. In Laos and Vietnam, they prefer high altitudes, usually above 500 m (1,600 ft). In forests on limestone karst, they occur in much lower elevations.
Ecology and behaviour
Assam macaques are diurnal, and at times both arboreal and terrestrial. They are omnivorous and feed on fruits, leaves, invertebrates and cereals. In Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh, 15 groups were recorded in 2002 comprising 209 individuals. The population had a group density of 1.11 individuals per 1 km2 (0.39 sq mi), and an average group size of 13.93 individuals. During a survey in Nepal's Langtang National Park in 2007, a total of 213 Assamese macaques were encountered in 9 groups in the study area of 113 km2 (44 sq mi). Troop sizes varied between 13 and 35 individuals, with a mean troop size of 23.66 individuals, and comprised 31% adult females, 16% adult males, and their young of various ages. They preferred maize kernals, followed by potato tubers, but also raided fields with wheat, buckwheat, and millet.
The threats to this species' habitat include selective logging and various forms of anthropogenic development and activities, alien invasives, hunting and trapping for sport, medicine, food, and the pet trade. Additionally, hybridization with adjacent species poses a threat to some populations.
Macaca assamensis is listed in CITES Appendix II. It is legally protected in all countries of occurrence. For the populations in India, the species is listed under Schedule II, part I of the Indian Wildlife Act.
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