Species in Focus – Bonnet macaque

Bonnet Macaque intense gaze, Black and White Fine art shot by Ishan Shanavas. Shot in Kerala, India

Up in the trees dwell the monkeys, curiously eyeing those who pass below. They swing across the branches, deftly moving through the maze of leaves and twigs. Each movement has a spring in it, testimony to a nimbleness that is befitting off this animal.

The Bonnet macaque is a monkey found exclusively in India. Primarily in the southern part of the country, this primate can be found wandering both jungles and urban landscapes. It has grown to become iconic of the region, with people tolerant of their presence and antics.

Anyone from South India will be familiar with this monkey. I am no different. As I travel around this region, I find them, sitting atop shop signs, opening up ice cream wrappers and relishing the insides.

My family regularly takes a road trip from Bangalore to visit my extended family in Kerala. Our journey takes us through Bandipur Tiger Reserve, on of my favourite landscapes. It is home to tigers, elephants, chital, sambar deer and yes, Bonnet macaques. You find them at the side of the road, ambling out of the way when a vehicle approaches.

When my sister and I were younger, our father would ask us to count the monkeys on our journey so as to keep us occupied. We would do this with much competitive spirit, often inflating our actual count. I’d stare out of the window in earnest, surveying all the monkeys before me.

During my time at Rishi Valley School, I’d regularly come across these primates strolling about the campus. They’d frequently enter our hostels, stealing food and tossing clothes around. I once woke up to find a monkey sitting at the door to my dorm, quizzically eyeing my sleepy yet shocked expression.

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Over time, I grew close to this primate. I began spending many hours observing them. Their curious antics are not that different than that of children. Babies are the best to watch; always up to something mischievious.

Since the Bonnet macaque is not typically “charismatic”, it is ignored by photographers and researchers alike. Its charm is lost in its ubiquity. Oh what a world we would make if looks weren’t the only criteria that made an animal/person interesting or not.

I outrightly reject this outlook. Through my articles and photography, I will write a new vision for this animal, one based on admiration and curiosity. Let is be the building blocks of a world where monkeys are no longer the butt of jokes, but the creatures of dreams.

Herein lies my attempt in giving the Bonnet macaque its time in the spotlight. Observe this animal’s unhurried simplicity. These images are my artistic interpretation of this magnificent animal. I hope that it inspires you as much as it does me.

Fact File

Bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata)

  • Age: 20-35 years
  • Weight: 3.5-9 kg
  • Length: 40-70 cm
  • Found in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra.

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Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

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