Rhesus monkey

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Ye Shangqing  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A rhesus monkey is seen in Tanglang Mountain, Nanshan District.

Rhesus monkey

Probably the animal whose presence surprises people in Shenzhen the most, is the one and only Rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta), a medium sized mammal of about 64cm in length and with an extra 30cm long tail.


In contrast to other big wild animals reported in the city, these monkeys live in Tanglang Mountain, which is right in the middle of Shenzhen and is very close to the CBD area instead of locating at the outskirts of the city. So after a very short hike, you can easily observe them in their natural habitat right next to the walking paths.


Most monkeys are not commonly able to adapt to the spaces invaded by humans or near human settlements, not to mention in a huge megacity like Shenzhen. However, the Rhesus monkey has the unusual ability to adapt to those habitats and therefore occupies an unusually broader geographic range.


Rhesus monkeys are covered by a thick sand-colored fur layer that helps them blend perfectly in their mountainous habitat. They feed on almost everything they can find, such as plants, seeds, roots, fruits, even insects, and bird’s eggs.


They usually move together in groups of up to 30 in which females are the majority. They are highly social among the members of their own group and they can be very aggressive towards members from other groups. Grooming is a part of their close social behavior and is essential for the well being of the entire population, so it is very common to see the monkeys debugging each other’s bodies.


This species of monkey breeds during autumn or winter months, and after the breed period, there will be a decrease in the males’ sexual hormone, making them unable to reproduce in other seasons. Females are ready to have a baby at the age of three, while males become ready at the age of four. A couple of monkeys usually have one baby at one time and if they want another baby, the female needs to gestate for five and a half months and then gives birth to the cub. The baby monkeys will be ready to go and explore on their own after around six weeks of maternal care.


Rhesus monkeys are not considered to be an endangered species; however, it has been one of the most used species for scientific research for years due to their similarities with humans, though nowadays other species like fruit flies or mice are more frequently used in the research. 


Since the population of the monkeys is not high in Shenzhen and the range of Tanglang Mountain is relatively isolated, it is our citizens’ duty to work for the conservation of these fantastic creatures that enrich our already fruitful biodiversity.