Of Least Concern? Range Extension by Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta) Threatens Long-Term Survival of Bonnet Macaques (M. radiata) in Peninsular India
Rhesus and bonnet macaques are the 2 most common and widely distributed of the 8 macaque species of India. Rhesus macaques are widely distributed across southern and southeastern Asia, whereas bonnet macaques are restricted to peninsular India. We studied the current distributional limits of the 2 species, examined patterns of their coexistence in the interspecific border zones, and evaluated losses in the distributional range of bonnet macaques over the last 3 decades. Our results indicate that whereas rhesus macaques have extended their geographical range into the southern peninsula, bonnet macaques have been displaced from many areas within their former distributional range. The southern and the northern distributional limits for rhesus and bonnet macaques, respectively, currently run parallel to each other in the western part of the country, are separated by a large gap in central India, and converge on the eastern coast of the peninsula to form a distribution overlap zone. This overlap region is characterized by the presence of mixed-species troops, with pure troops of both species sometimes occurring even in close proximity to one another. The range extension of rhesus macaque—a natural process in some areas and a direct consequence of introduction by humans in other regions—poses grave implications for the endemic and declining populations of bonnet macaques in southern India.