The Wolf Monkey (Macaca Canis), also known as the Rinca Macaque, is a Cercopithecine native to the island of Rinca, Indonesia. Like most primates they are omnivorous, but unusually their diet is primarily hunted or scavenged. The Wolf Monkey lives in large patrilineal family groups with strongly defined territories. They pose a significant threat to people and have been hunted extensively in the past.
Macaca comes from the Portuguese for monkey, while the word Canis means dog or wolf. The name was given to the species because of their relatively large, sharp canine teeth, although there is a misconception they are so named for their howling vocalisations at night.
The Wolf Monkey is closely related to other macaque species.
The species strongly resembles its relative the Japanese macaque, but is longer in the body, especially the arms and legs, and has larger, sharper teeth and claws.
Wolf Monkeys live in large tribal groups of up to 50 members, spanning sizeable territories of forest and scrubland. The dominant males and females produce offspring which will be nurtured by the females, and closely guarded against all males who may kill and eat the offspring, including their own. The females and young take up a central position within the groups territory, nesting close together and maintaining constant watch for predators and males. Many of the females will also join the hunt however. Females will also join in the frequent territorial disputes with other Wolf Monkeys.
Wolf monkeys are unusual among primates for being primarily a predatory species. They most often hunt at dusk or at night, ambushing their prey on the forest floor. Their most frequent targets are wild pigs, deer, and young buffalo, but they have also been observed to kill young komodo dragons. Their propensity to scavenge as well as their potential threat to humans has brought them into conflict with local human populations, and in several areas the species has been exterminated completely.
After a kill male monkeys have been observed to cover their fur with blood, a mating ritual which is thought to signal their proficiency as a hunter and a dominant male.
The monkeys make howling and screaming noises on the hunt to drive their prey towards an ambush, and when ambushing their prey make loud screams to distract and frighten them, and discourage any other predators nearby. The monkeys will also make loud shrieking noises as any predators enter their territory.
The species has a reputation for viciousness, largely encouraged by the fascination for exploration and exotic animals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Stories of carcasses stripped to the bone are more likely to have been caused by decomposition and other scavenging species such as rats. Local folklore regards the monkeys as forest spirits, vengeful demons who take the hearts of the fearful. In truth the legends probably arose to discourage people from wandering in the forests at night. In some tribal cultures they leave offerings of meat for the monkeys to appease them, however this probably has the unintended consequence of bringing more monkeys near to human settlements. Human attacks are rare, with no more than 15 documented cases since records began, and only 10 of them fatal.