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Species Spotlight: Long-Tailed Macaque Behaviour


The Long-Tailed Macaque, also known as the ‘Crab-Eating Macaque’, is a fascinating species whose behaviours are diverse and complex. This blog post aims to shine a light on their behaviours, which range from foraging to socializing to reproductive actions.


Long-Tailed Macaques, which are primarily omnivorous creatures, are notable for their incredibly diverse diet. This diet comprises a wide array of food items, including but not limited to fruits, seeds, and leaves, as well as small animals. This diversity in their diet is indicative of their adaptability and survival skills. The Long-Tailed Macaques have been observed to forage for food not only on the ground but also in trees. Their nimble fingers and outstanding climbing skills, which are a key part of their survival toolkit, enable them to easily reach food sources that may be out of reach for other species. Their adaptability and versatile diet make them one of the most resilient species in their habitat.


In the daily life of the Long-Tailed Macaque, resting plays a vital role. Throughout the day, these creatures can frequently be observed in a state of repose, sitting or lying down. This behaviour is particularly prominent during the peak heat of the day, when the sun is at its zenith. In these intensely hot periods, the macaques choose to conserve their energy, taking a respite from their usual activities. However, this period of rest is not solely about physical recuperation. This time is also dedicated to grooming and socializing, activities that are crucial to their social structure and cleanliness. Through grooming, they not only maintain their physical hygiene but also reinforce social bonds and hierarchies within their group. Hence, what might appear as mere rest periods, in fact, serve multiple important functions in the lives of Long-Tailed Macaques.


In the social structure of Long-Tailed Macaques, grooming plays a pivotal and multifaceted role. This behaviour, which involves meticulously cleaning and caring for each other’s fur, serves not only a hygienic function, but also a social one. It’s a practice that fosters a sense of community, solidarity, and mutual trust among these primates, assisting in strengthening their social bonds. The grooming rituals can be observed on various parts of their bodies such as the head, back, and arms. By engaging in this behaviour, they are able to ensure that they remain clean and free of parasites, while also demonstrating their affection and camaraderie towards one another.

Social Behaviour

Social interactions play a pivotal role in the lives of Long-Tailed Macaques. These primates, known for their strong social bonds, are frequently observed participating in communal activities such as playing and grooming each other. These activities are not merely recreational but hold significant societal implications as they aid in establishing and reinforcing the social hierarchies within the group. This hierarchical structure, once established, dictates the access to resources and mating opportunities among the group members. Furthermore, these social interactions also serve as an effective platform for learning and practicing various survival skills. In particular, the young macaques benefit immensely from these group activities. It allows them to observe, imitate, and eventually master the skills essential for survival in the wild, thereby significantly increasing their chances of successful adulthood.


Aggression in Long-Tailed Macaques can take several forms, including biting and chasing. These aggressive behaviours are usually a way of establishing dominance within the group, particularly among males.


Long-Tailed Macaques have a broad range of vocalizations, including calls and songs. These sounds are used for various purposes, such as alerting others to danger, attracting mates, or signaling their position to group members.


Locomotion in Long-Tailed Macaques is primarily terrestrial. They walk on all fours but are also excellent climbers, using trees for foraging, escaping predators, and finding sleeping spots.

The ability of macaques to swim is an interesting aspect of their behaviour that deserves further examination. These primates, often found in forested areas near bodies of water, have demonstrated a remarkable ability to swim, which may play a crucial role in their survival and adaptation strategies. As such, the study of macaques’ swimming ability could provide valuable insights into their behavioural patterns, physiological adaptations, and evolutionary journey.

Reproductive Behaviour

The reproductive behaviour in Long-Tailed Macaques is multifaceted, encompassing a range of behaviours from courtship displays to mating rituals. These behaviours are integral to their social structure and reproductive success. Males within the group often take on the role of displaying their strength and dominance in an attempt to attract potential female mates. This display, which can be quite elaborate, is a critical part of their mating strategy. On the other hand, females play an equally important role in this process. They may display their receptivity to potential mates through a variety of methods, including specific body language cues and vocalizations. These signals serve to communicate their willingness to mate and can influence the males’ behaviour. This intricate dance of courtship and mating is a fascinating aspect of Long-Tailed Macaque behaviour, highlighting the complexity of their social and reproductive systems.

Parental Care

The nurturing and upbringing behaviour of the long-tailed macaques, a primate species renowned for their long tails, towards their offspring is a fascinating aspect of their behavioural repertoire that warrants closer observation. These primates display a significant level of parental care, which plays a crucial role in the survival and development of their young.

Parental care in long-tailed macaques involves numerous aspects including feeding, protection, and teaching. Mothers are primarily responsible for the care of the young, but other members of the group also contribute. This form of cooperative care, also known as alloparenting, involves siblings, fathers, and other group members participating in the care and upbringing of the offspring.

Feeding is a fundamental part of parental care. Mothers nurse their infants and as they grow, introduce them to solid food. The young macaques learn what to eat by observing their mothers and other adults in the group. This observational learning plays a critical role in their survival as it helps them to identify safe and nutritious food sources.

Protection is another crucial aspect of parental care in long-tailed macaques. Predation is a constant threat in the wild, and parents must remain vigilant to keep their young safe. Mothers often carry their infants close to their bodies, both for warmth and protection. As the young ones grow, they are taught to stay close to the group, enhancing their safety.

Teaching is an essential part of parental care. Young macaques learn from their parents and other adults in the group. They learn how to forage for food, navigate their environment, communicate with others, and respond to threats. These lessons are critical to their survival and social integration.

Home Range and Territorial Behaviour

Long-Tailed Macaques have a defined home range and exhibit territorial behaviour. They patrol and defend their territory against intruders, making vocalizations and physical displays to deter potential threats.


The Long-Tailed Macaque’s behaviours illuminate the adaptability and complexity of this species. Whether it’s their intricate social hierarchy, their diverse diet, or their remarkable parental care, every aspect of their behaviour contributes to their survival and success. Truly, understanding these behaviours is key to appreciating the fascinating world of Long-Tailed Macaques.

Photos of Long-Tailed Macaque Behaviour

Crab-eating Macaque, Malaysia by Tim Plowden

Crab-eating Macaque allogrooming in a secondary forest in Malaysia.

Juvenile male Long-tailed Macaque resting on a footbridge in an urban public housing estate in Singapore.

Juvenile male Long-tailed Macaque resting on a footbridge in a public housing estate in Singapore.

A female long-tailed macaque suckles her baby while she stands alert on the Waterway Sunrise public housing estate construction site barrier, Singapore.

A long-tailed macaque drinks water from a muddy puddle on a dirt trail, Singapore.

A long-tailed macaque infant forages in the water of a muddy puddle on a dirt trail, Singapore.

A long-tailed macaque sits on the ballustrade of Sunrise Gateway above the Serangoon Reservoir, Singapore.

A jogger runs past a long-tailed macaque troop sits on a bridge along Punggol Promenade Nature Walk while eating food taken from construction workers of Waterway Sunrise public housing estate, Singapore.

Family of long tailed macaques resting on a busy footbridge spanning a mangrove river between two public housing estates, Singapore.

Family of long tailed macaques rest and groom while sitting on a bridge over a mangrove river, Singapore.

A pair of young long tailed macaques play fight on a mangrove boardwalk, Singapore.

Long tailed macaque sitting on a termite mound next to a park tree, Singapore.

Long tailed macaque sitting on a tree above a mangrove river allogrooming, Singapore.

Long tailed macaque sitting on a boardwalk above a mangrove river to explore a tree for food, Singapore.

Close up of an adult macaque yawning.

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