Toque of the Town - Aaron Northcott

The Toque of the Town

The Toque of the Town

Toque Macaques are endemic to Sri Lanka and currently listed as endangered by the IUCN. They are wonderfully mischievous and can often be found near to human settlements, towns and farms - where they make an easy living scrounging food scraps and stealing a quick snack when no one is looking.

Unfortunately it is because of their curious nature and entrepreneurial approach to finding food that population numbers have been decreasing - as locals shoot, trap or poison animals that come too close to their crops and consider them a pest in towns. The destruction of their natural habitat for cash crops such as palm oil have also played a large role in the decline of their numbers.

I was lucky enough to spend some time with a small troupe of Toque Macaques whilst exploring Udawalawe National Park, and this is one the photographs I captured. There were just a few of them foraging in the low vegetation surrounding a dried-up lake bed, quite happy my presence in a large 4x4 (necessary because of the elephants also inhabiting the reserve - which despite their size blend into the surrounding trees and vegetation eerily!).

The young female featured in the photograph began moving towards us - I expected her to stop somewhere nearby and survey us for a while; but instead she jumped right up and sat quite happily on the seat I'd just moved from to get a better shot of her approaching from lower to the ground! She was quite happy with her new perch and sat for several minutes, whilst I sprawled on the floor below hoping not to scare her off with the sound of my camera shutter.

It was a fantastic experience - as was all of my time spent in Udawalawe National Park, and it is saddening to think that in much of Sri Lanka (and other parts of the world) such beautiful and charismatic creatures are still persecuted and threatened due to loss of habitat.

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