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Crested black macaque
Macaca nigra

Conservation status:
Critically endangered

Life span: 18 years
Total population: 106,000
Regions: Indonesia
Gestation: 5.8 months (174 days)
Height: 520 to 570 mm (M), 445 to 570 mm (F)
Weight: 9.9 kg (M), 5.5 kg (F)

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Suborder: Haplorrhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Superfamily: Cercopithecoidea
Family: Cercopithecidae
Subfamily: Cercopithecinae
Genus: Macaca
Species: M. nigra

Other names: black ape, Celebes crested macaque, Celebes ape, Celebes macaque, crested black macaque, Sulawesi crested black macaque, Sulawesi macaque; cynopithèque nègre or macaque des célèbes (French); macaca negra (Spanish); celebesmakak, svart sulawesimakak, or svartapa (Swedish)

Although they are monkeys, crested black macaques are sometimes wrongfully referred to as apes because of their extremely truncated tails (Groves 2001). Usually one of the best ways to differentiate between a monkey and an ape is to look for the presence of a tail, but this is difficult with crested black macaques because their short tails are difficult to see.


Crested black macaques have entirely black faces and bodies except for the striking bright pink coloration of their ischial callosities, leathery, hairless pads on the rump. The hair on their heads forms a long, backward, and upward-directed pointy crest and they have prominent, bony cheek ridges and a shelf-like brow bone (Rowe 1996; Groves 2001). They have short tails that are only about 20 mm (.79 in) long (Bynum 1999). Crested black macaques are sexually dimorphic, with males almost twice the size of females: males measure between 520 and 570 mm (1.71 and 1.87 ft) and weigh 9.9 kg (21.8 lb), on average, while females measure 445 to 570 mm (1.46 to 1.8 ft) and only weigh 5.5 kg (12.1 lb), on average (Rowe 1996; Singh & Sinha 2004). In addition to larger body size, male crested black macaques have enlarged canine teeth compared to females. They use these in aggressive encounters with other males while competing for access to females and during intergroup encounters while defending food resources (Hadidian 1980; Kinnaird & O'Brien 2000). Crested black macaques are semi-terrestrial, spending time moving on the ground and through the trees by quadrupedal walking (Rowe 1996).


Macaca nigra

Wild crested black macaques are found only on two islands in Indonesia. They are restricted to the tip of the northeastern-most peninsula of Sulawesi and on an island 345 miles from Sulawesi, Pulau Bacan, where they were introduced by humans in 1867 (Rosenbaum et al. 1998a). Though these populations have been geographically separated for almost 150 years, they exhibit the same morphological, ecological, and behavioral patterns (Rosenbaum et al. 1998a). On Sulawesi, they are found in Tangkoko Batuangus-Dua Sudara, Gunung Ambang, and Gunung Manembonembo Nature Reserves as well as Bunaken Marine National Park (Bynum et al. 1999). The majority of the population is found in Tangkoko and it is here where most of the field research has been conducted. Research on Bacan has been conducted at Gunung Sibela Nature Reserve (Rosenbaum et al. 1998a).

Until recently there were few field research studies conducted on crested black macaques in the wild and the result is little published information about behavior, ecology, social organization, and reproduction. This pattern has been reversed in recent years and some of the researchers working with this species include Timothy O'Brien, Margaret Kinnaird, and Barry Rosenbaum.


The northern peninsula of Sulawesi is highly seasonal and characterized by its volcanic geography. Tangkoko ranges over an area with elevations from sea level to 1351 m (4432 ft). Within the reserve, landscape patterns include severely disturbed and burned areas, abandoned regenerating gardens, secondary forest, and primary forest (O'Brien & Kinnaird 1997). Throughout their entire range on Sulawesi and some of their range on Bacan, crested black macaques live in areas of habitat disturbance ranging from small gardens surrounded by primary forest to clear-cut areas (Rosenbaum et al. 1998b). The severity of habitat disturbance changes the floral composition of the landscape, and macaques are found in differing densities according to disturbance (Rosenbaum et al. 1998b). Annual rainfall in this region is between 1550 and 2400 mm (3.77 and 7.87 ft) with the majority of rain falling between October and May. The temperature is fairly constant throughout the year, ranging from 21.7° C (71° F) to 34.4° C (94° F) at the coolest and hottest points in the year, respectively (O'Brien & Kinnaird 1997). The temperature and climate on Bacan is similar to that on Sulawesi and vegetational communities on Bacan range from lowland tropical forest to montane rainforest at the higher elevations. Gunung Sibela, the nature reserve where crested black macaques are studied, is located at an elevation of 2110 m (6922 ft) (Rosenbaum et al. 1998a).


Crested black macaques use a variety of habitats including lowland and montane primary forests, early and mature secondary forests, mangroves, areas of cultivation surrounded by primary and secondary forests, actively logged forests, and areas of dense human habitation and agriculture (Rosenbaum et al. 1998a). Though they are found in actively logged forests, they are found in lower densities in these highly disturbed areas (Rosenbaum et al. 1998a). Crested black macaques spend their days traveling, feeding, foraging, socializing, and resting. Of these activities, they spend 59% of their time traveling, foraging, and feeding and the remaining part of their day is spent resting and socializing (O'Brien & Kinnaird 1997). Socializating occurs in the morning and midday, and resting occurs in the mid to late afternoon. Traveling, feeding, and foraging are distributed evenly throughout the day (O'Brien & Kinnaird 1997). They are primarily terrestrial, spending more than 60% of their day on the ground foraging and socializing. Crested black macaques are mainly frugivorous, spending 70% of their time feeding on fruits, but they consume a huge variety of foods including seeds, leaves, flowers, pith, herbs, grass seeds, fungus, bird eggs, birds, and small vertebrates such as lizards and frogs (O'Brien & Kinnaird 1997). They are not seen above 1250 m (4101 ft) and the majority of observations occur below 700 m (2296 ft). Elevation restrictions are probably linked to low levels of fruit abundance at higher altitudes on Bacan. At Tangkoko, they do not range above 1100 m (3608 ft) (Rosenbaum et al. 1998a).

In Tangkoko, group size varies between 27 and 97 individuals, and groups have overlapping home ranges. Average monthly home range size varies from .47 to 3.48 km² (.18 to 1.34 mi²) and the average daily path length is 2388 m (1.48 mi) but varies greatly depending on access to primary forest (O'Brien & Kinnaird 1997). When crested black macaques have access to primary forest, they spend much less time traveling, presumably because of the higher quality of the habitat and higher abundance of fruit in these areas. Additionally, during periods of highest fruit abundance, crested black macaques do not travel as far each day (Kinnaird & O'Brien 2000). Group size on Bacan is much smaller with groups having, on average, 20 individuals (Rosenbaum et al. 1998a). Population densities in Tangkoko average about 30 individuals per square kilometer (19 per square mile), though in unprotected areas of Sulawesi they are significantly lower, with only about five individuals per square kilometer (3 per square mile)(Feistner 2000). On Bacan, densities of crested black macaques are as high as 170 animals per square kilometer (106 per square mile) in primary forest, but in logged forest, densities are considerable lower, with 133 individuals per square kilometer (82 per square mile)(Rosenbaum et al. 1998b).

Content last modified: February 2, 2006

Written by Kristina Cawthon Lang. Reviewed by Margaret Kinnaird.

Cite this page as:
Cawthon Lang KA. 2006 February 2. Primate Factsheets: Crested black macaque (Macaca nigra) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <>. Accessed 2014 April 18.