, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 139-150

Infanticide in seasonally breeding multimale groups of Hanuman langurs (Presbytis entellus) in Ramnagar (South Nepal)

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Abstract

In the seasonally breeding langur (Presbytis entellus) population of Ramnagar, South Nepal, where multimale groups prevail, 25 attacks on 11 infants (including one actual killing) by seven adult males were witnessed in five groups by six observers between 1990 and 1996. Circumstantial evidence also indicates three additional attempts at infanticide and in seven additional cases infanticide was presumed or likely. Infanticide presumably accounted for 30.8–62.5% of infant mortality in the first 2 years of life. Most attackers (91.4%) were residents of the infants' group and had immigrated after the infants had been born (75.0%) or conceived (25.0%). Thus, they were not related to the victims. The interbirth interval was shortened if an infant died either prior to September of its 1st year of life (mean = 1.2 years), or its 2nd year (mean = 2.0) and even its 3rd year (mean = 2.4). All attackers remained in the group at least until the next mating season; high-ranking males maintained their dominance rank and lower-ranking males rose in rank. Since rank and mating success were correlated and rank and reproductive success might be correlated, all attackers had a good chance of siring the next infant of the victims' mothers and could thus have benefited by their action. Infanticide seems to be a male reproductive strategy at Ramnagar. Infanticide has never before been reported among seasonally breeding langurs living at such low densities. This is also the first detailed report of infanticide as a male reproductive strategy in a seasonally breeding primate population.

Received: 19 December 1996 / Accepted after revision: 7 June 1997