Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta)

Rhesus Macaque

Rhesus Macaque

The Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta) has the widest geographical distribution of any primate except for us humans. It occurs all the way from Afghanistan and Pakistan through northern India up to southern China. The monkeys are extremely adaptable and live in a variety of habitats including open grasslands as well as dense forests. They live in large groups of up to 200 individuals and feed mainly on fruits and seeds as well as smaller insects. If you happen to be in central India and have to distinguish it from the related Bonnet Macaque (Macaca radiata) look at the haircut!

Rhesus Macaques have a long shared history with us humans. In Hinduism, the monkeys are sacred animals and therefore often inhabit temples and cities where they roam around quite undisturbed. In western countries, however, they have been used as laboratory animals for decades. In 1940 the rhesus factor was first described from the monkey’s blood. In the 50s and 60s the NASA as well as the Russians sent some of them into outer space. On the 25th October 1994, the Rhesus Macaque became the first cloned primate in the world. To get all of the “necessary test subjects”, India exported around 200 000 monkeys a year during the 50s. These numbers decreased during the subsequent decades, but the export of the animals was stopped completely not before 1978, when the public heard of radiation tests examining the effects of nuclear explosions on these poor creatures. Well, well, well – what are we humans not capable of doing?

I am happy that I could photograph rather relaxed and easy-going macaques in the city of Jaipur, Rajasthan, in January 2009 and 2014. I think they had no hard feelings for us humans! Let’s just hope they will never hear about the fate of their brothers and sisters at our hands…

Rhesus Macaque

Rhesus Macaque

sleepy Rhesus Macaque

sleepy Rhesus Macaque

4 responses to “Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta)

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