Tigers are apex predators that instill both awe and fear. Their imposing size and strength coupled with lightning quick movements paint them as ruthless hunters. So it’s natural to wonder – with that lethal prowess, do tigers eat monkeys?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Yes, tigers do eat monkeys. When available, monkey meat makes up a small part of the tiger’s diverse diet.

In this nearly 3,000 word guide, we’ll explore the nitty-gritty details of tiger diets. You’ll get the facts on how often they hunt primate prey, which monkey species are most vulnerable, and what drives tigers to target certain animals over others.

Details on Tiger Hunting Habits and Preferred Prey

Tigers Mostly Target Ungulates Like Deer

Tigers are opportunistic predators and their diet can vary greatly depending on location and availability of prey. However, they mostly prefer to hunt large ungulates such as deer, antelope, buffalo, wild pigs, and cattle. A staple of the tiger diet in India and Nepal are chital deer and sambar deer.

In Sumatra, they focus on wild boar. In the Russian Far East, Siberian tigers feed on elk and reindeer. On average, tigers require around 50 medium-sized animals or 10 large animals per year to sustain themselves.

According to a recent study, over 85% of the tigers’ diet consists of ungulates like deer and wild pigs [1]. Their huge size and strength allow them to easily overpower these large prey once they ambush them.

Tigers will usually target the young, old, or sick members of an ungulate herd as they are easier to catch. They use stealth and camouflage to stalk close to their prey before pouncing from short distance and delivering a killing bite to the neck or throat.

Tigers Sometimes Eat Monkeys When the Opportunity Arises

While not their preferred choice, tigers will sometimes hunt and eat monkeys when the opportunity presents itself. Some tiger habitats overlap with monkey populations, putting them in proximity. In India’s Nagarhole National Park, tigers were observed to kill and eat langur monkeys and macaques [2].

In Sumatra, they occasionally feed on long-tailed macaques. Tigers have also been seen feeding on gray langurs in Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park.

However, most experts agree that monkeys comprise a very small portion of the tiger diet, perhaps only 1-5%. Monkeys tend to live in trees and have an excellent sense of hearing, making them more difficult for tigers to ambush compared to ground-dwelling deer and pigs.

But during droughts or prey scarcity when their normal prey is harder to find, tigers may be more likely to hunt opportunistically for monkeys.

Tiger Diet Varies by Location and Prey Availability

While ungulates comprise the bulk of their diet, tigers are opportunistic predators and will eat a wide variety of prey depending on habitat and availability. In coastal mangrove forests, they feed on fish, crabs, and water birds.

In areas near villages, domestic livestock like cattle, goats, and dogs may become prey. They will also hunt other predators like leopards, wolves, jackals, foxes, and crocodiles, usually to eliminate competition.

Location Sample Prey Species
Indian subcontinent Chital deer, sambar deer, nilgai, wild boar, rhesus macaques
Sumatra Wild boar, tapirs, langur monkeys
Russian Far East Elk, red deer, musk deer, Manchurian wapiti, roe deer, wild boar
Bangladesh Water buffalo, wild boar, chital deer

In all, tigers are adaptable predators that will eat a wide range of prey depending on habitat. But medium to large ungulates are their primary targets across their range when available. Monkeys comprise a very small portion of the diet, and tigers mostly hunt them only opportunistically as a supplement.

By understanding their preferred prey, we can better conserve tiger habitats and protect their primary food sources.

Monkey Species Most Often Hunted by Tigers

Hanuman Langurs

The Hanuman langur, also known as the gray langur or common Indian langur, is one of the most frequent monkey prey for tigers across their range in South and Southeast Asia. These long-tailed, arboreal monkeys are highly vulnerable to tiger attacks when they descend to the ground to forage or drink water.

Their loud alarm calls often give away their presence to nearby tigers. Hanuman langurs live in large troops that can number over 100 individuals, providing tigers with ample opportunity to ambush and capture these monkeys as prey.

Rhesus Macaques Among Most Common Prey

Along with hanuman langurs, rhesus macaques are among the most commonly hunted monkey species for tigers. These stocky, pink-faced monkeys inhabit forests and cities across Asia, often coming into contact with tigers.

Their ground-dwelling and terrestrial nature makes them prone to surprise tiger attacks. Studies of tiger scat and kills in India, Nepal and elsewhere consistently find evidence of rhesus macaques as prey items.

The abundant troops of these monkeys, sometimes numbering over 100, provide tigers with a regular source of food.

Baboons and Colobus Monkeys Also Vulnerable

In Africa, olive baboons and black-and-white colobus monkeys are the primary monkey prey for tigers. Baboons are large, terrestrial monkeys that tigers can ambush and overpower with their strength and stealth.

Colobus monkeys move through the trees but must come to the ground at times, exposing them to tigers. Remains of both monkey species have been found in the scat and kills of tigers in India and other parts of their African range.

While not as common prey as larger ungulates, monkeys do comprise a regular part of the tiger’s diet, especially in forests where monkey troops are abundant.

Why Tigers Hunt Certain Prey Over Others

Abundance and Vulnerability Make Ideal Targets

Tigers are opportunistic predators that hunt prey based largely on availability and vulnerability. Animals like deer, wild boar, and antelope tend to be abundant in tiger habitats, making them easy targets.

These prey animals travel in herds and often wander into open grasslands and valleys where tigers can more easily stalk them. Solo prey like monkeys and sloth bears are also vulnerable as they have no herd members to warn them of an approaching tiger.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, over 90% of the tiger’s diet consists of large ungulates like deer and wild pigs that weigh at least 90 kg. Tigers will also readily hunt smaller fare, including monkeys, fish, birds, and livestock if given the chance.

The solitary nature of tigers and their diverse habitats across Asia means they must hunt whatever vulnerable prey is readily available.

Solitary Hunting Style Favors Specific Prey

As solitary hunters, tigers are not equipped to take down very large, dangerous prey. Tigers do not have the group hunting skills of lions and lack the speed of cheetahs. So they must rely on stealth and ambush to hunt successfully.

This favors prey under 500 kg that can be stalked and killed quickly before the victim is aware of the tiger’s presence.

Despite weighing up to 300 kg themselves, tigers avoid extremely risky hunts of large, dangerous animals that could injure them. Water buffalo can weigh up to 1,200 kg and have long, deadly horns. Rhinos and elephants are also virtually invulnerable to tiger attacks.

Thus, tigers stick to more manageable prey like deer and wild boar that pose little risk.

Injury or Age Can Lead More Tigers to Eat Monkeys

While not a prime food source, monkeys do sometimes fall prey to tigers. In India’s Nagarhole National Park, increased tiger attacks on langur and bonnet macaque monkeys were observed when tiger populations were high.

Tigers presumably viewed the monkeys as easy targets when preferred ungulates became scarcer.

Tigers that are injured, old, or unable to chase faster prey may also turn more to monkeys in the canopy. These slower moving tigers have difficulty capturing quick hoofed animals on the ground. But they can stealthily stalk arboreal monkeys and launch surprise attacks out of desperation.

Monkey Hunting Techniques Used by Tigers

Stealth Stalking From Dense Cover

Tigers are masters of stealth and camouflage thanks to their striped fur coats. When hunting monkeys, tigers will often slowly stalk their prey while hidden in dense vegetation or tall grasslands. They quietly sneak up on oblivious monkeys before pouncing at lightning speed.

Their striped coats provide nearly perfect camouflage in the dappled sunlight of tropical forests or tall grasses, allowing them to approach within 10-20 meters without being detected. Authoritative websites like National Geographic mention that a tiger’s stealthy stalking ability allows it to get remarkably close to prey before striking.

Blindside Ambushes From Trees or Bushes

Another cunning monkey hunting technique used by tigers is to wait in ambush while hidden in trees or thick bushes. Tigers are adept climbers and will often use low hanging branches or shrubs to conceal themselves.

When a troop of monkeys draws near, the tiger will launch a devastating surprise attack, leaping from its hiding spot onto the backs of unsuspecting primates. According to the World Wildlife Fund, using ambush tactics is a particularly effective technique for successful monkey hunts in dense jungle habitats.

The sudden ambush allows the tiger to inflict critical damage and chaos before monkeys can flee up into the protective canopy.

Intimidation to Scare Prey Into Fleeing

Tigers also use their intimidating size and roar to frighten monkey prey into fleeing in a preferred direction. By snarling loudly or roaring, tigers can scare monkeys into running away from the safety of their troop or tree canopy, often straight into open ground or waterways.

This creates an exposed target for the tiger to more easily chase down and capture. As explained on National Geographic’s website, tigers use roar intimidation to great effect when herding nervous monkey prey into vulnerable positions.

It’s just one of the many clever hunting strategies in a tiger’s arsenal for taking down speedy and nimble primates like monkeys.

Other Big Cats Known to Prey on Monkeys

Leopards as the Biggest Threat Among Felids

Leopards are arguably the most significant threat to monkeys among big cats. These astute hunters are strong climbers, allowing them to pursue primates into the trees where they often reside. Research shows that over 50% of the leopard’s diet in some forest habitats comes from primates (Cambridge, 2022).

Leopards routinely snatch monkeys from branches, ambushing them from dense vegetation.

A study in Uganda’s Kibale National Park found that leopards were responsible for over 80% of primate hunts observed in the forest. Their success rate averaged an impressive 60% – far higher than other felids (Zuberbühler & Jenny, 2002).

Leopards seem especially apt at catching notoriously agile monkeys like colobus and patas monkeys. Their ability to stealthily stalk through trees makes them formidable hunters.

Lions Occasionally Snatch Monkeys From Trees

While not as nimble in trees as leopards, lions occasionally grab monkeys from lower branches. Researchers working in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park observed several instances of lions snatching red colobus monkeys from trees near watering holes (Siefert et al., 2004).

The study found that lions were targeting nursery groups with more vulnerable infants. While such events are relatively rare, lions do opportunistically prey on monkeys when chances arise.

In India’s Gir Forest, Asiatic lions have also been documented preying on hanuman langur monkeys. An analysis of over 200 lion scat samples found that 7% contained remains from the long-tailed primates (Joslin 1973). Lion predation thus poses a moderate threat to some monkey populations.

Even Jaguars Will Eat Monkeys in Parts of Central/South America

While most big cats prey predominately on ungulates like deer or antelope, jaguars exhibit more variation depending on habitat. In tropical rainforests like the Amazon, jaguars derive up to 85% of their diet from monkeys (Emmons 1987).

Capuchins, spider monkeys, howlers, and marmosets are all on the menu.

Researchers using camera traps in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest found that jaguars were one of the main predators responsible for a 90% decline in howler monkeys over 15 years (Bovendorp & Galetti 2007). Jaguars in Central/South America should thus be considered a serious threat to both diurnal and nocturnal monkey populations where habitat overlap occurs.


In the end, tigers are opportunistic hunters. Though they focus mainly on abundant hoofed prey, they will capitalize on vulnerable monkey populations when available.

By ambushing swift primate targets, tigers can hone their skills and expand their palate. Yet monkey meat remains just a supplemental addition rather than staple food source.

The tiger’s ability to hunt such agile quarry reinforces their standing as consummate predators. But it also serves as a sobering reminder – no monkey is ever truly safe in tiger territory.

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