Japanese Macaque also known as snow monkeys, these primates live in Japan’s forests, highlands, and mountains. They are the only primates to live so far north besides humans.
Snow monkeys vary in size depending on the region they inhabit: animals in the southern parts are smaller compared to the animals living in the colder, northern regions of Japan. On average, snow monkeys weigh between 11 and 18 kilograms (25 – 40 pounds) and reach 50 to 58.5 centimeters (20 to 23 inches) in length.
Body of the snow monkey is covered with fur, whose color varies from brown to white.
Fur covers all parts of their body except faces and rear areas. Red color of the face is a positive sign that animal has reached adulthood.
Few months ago in september Nikko, a snow monkey at the Minnesota Zoo, celebrated her 32nd birthday. In the wild, snow monkeys tend to live much shorter lives, though. One estimate puts the average lifespan for a female snow monkey at 6.3 years.
Snow monkeys are omnivores (eat both meat and vegetation). Their diet consists of barks, twigs, fruit, insects, eggs and small mammals.
Snow monkeys have to contend with seasonal changes with temperatures ranging from -15°C (5°F) Centigrade in the winter to more than 23°C (73°F) in the summer, where the vegetation primarily consists of deciduous trees and conifers.
They are excellent swimmers. Snow monkeys have been reported to swim up to half a kilometer.
Japanese Macaques live together in troops that are led by the alpha male and usually consist of between 20 and 30 individuals.
The alpha male not only helps to sire young, but also decides where the troop should go, and protects it from both predators and other Japanese Macaque troops.
Bonds between members are very tight. During the leisure time, snow monkeys groom each other to remove fleas and insects from the fur. Grooming nourishes the social bonds between animals.
Snow monkeys are known as the one of the cleverest species of monkeys. They learn easily and share new skills and hunting (or eating) techniques with other members of the troop and with their offspring.
During the winter time, snow monkeys gather and hold each other tightly to prevent heat loss.
Female Japanese Macaques tend to reach sexual maturity about a year earlier than males, at between the ages of four and five. She usually chooses her mate by his rank, and after a gestation period that lasts for up to 6 months, the female Japanese Macaque gives birth to a single infant.
Baby Japanese Macaques are incredibly dependent on their mother and remain clinging to her for their first couple of years, meaning that mother and baby often have a very close bond.
Snow monkeys inherit their dominance from their mother. Daughters outrank any monkey who is subordinate to her mother, as well as any of her older sisters. Rank among sisters decreases as age increases. (Male snow monkeys leave their family after they mature.)
Snow monkeys are playful creatures. They often made snowballs and roll them on the ground during the winter. Adult animals also participate in this type of game.
In the ‘80s, Japanese primatologist Toshisada Nishida observed a female Japanese macaque washing her sweet potato in water before eating it, including in seawater, which may have added the taste of salt to her meal as well as cleansing it of sand.
In the 1950s, snow monkeys of the mountainous Shiga Heights region, took advantage of a beneficial environmental change: humans altered the temperature of some volcanic hot springs to make the water more comfortable for bathers. The snow monkeys, taking a cue from their human cousins, began to partake in the hot tub experience.
Snow monkeys produce different types of sounds used for communication. Scientists noticed that type of sound depends on the location that monkeys inhabit, such as different dialects in human language.
Due to their fairly large size and diverse habitat ranges, the Japanese Macaque has no real predators in their natural environment.
Humans are the primarily threat to the Japanese Macaque as they are often killed by farmers when they approach livestock and crops.
It is estimated that there could be as few as 50,000 individuals remaining in Japan today, but numbers are still declining particularly seeing that they are often killed, as they are seen as pests by local people.