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17 Photos Of Japanese Snow Monkeys Enjoying Life More Than You

Japanese macaques are a fascinating and adorable species full of endearing behaviors, including a preference for bathing in hot springs. Take a look at these 17 photos to see just how much these snow monkeys are enjoying life more than you.

Nature is amazing. We, as part of the intricate web of life on this planet, are often dumbfounded by just how creative and resourceful other species are. And then there’s also something incredibly charming about animals who act and look funnily similar to ourselves. Of course, we’re primates, so it’s not surprising when other primates behave like us and us like them—but it’s still great to see just how close we truly are. We share 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees, for instance, and we’re likewise very closely related to many other monkeys around the globe. 

Take the famous hot springs at Jigokudani park in Nagano, for example. There we get to see the adorable lives of our not-so-distant cousins, the Japanese macaques (a.k.a snow monkeys). Not counting humans, no other primate lives more to the north or in a colder climate than them. Oh, and they’re adorable, too. Here are some photos that show how much these little guys are (probably) enjoying life more than you.

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@juliawimmerlinSnow monkeys live in matrilineal societies—meaning it’s the mother’s lineage, rather than the father’s, that matters. Their whole “culture” is centered around the females, who are the constant element in their social groups, as males often move out when young and spend their lives wandering from one group to another. 

@nextvacayBoth males and females establish a specific social hierarchy. The males have a sort of reputation system with the most “reputable” (usually the member that’s been with the group the longest) becoming alpha males. 

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@ono_taka5023Females’ ranks are determined by their mother. The better relationship an alpha male has with alpha females, the longer he’ll retain his rank. So, you see, they are quite similar to several human societies. Human culture, after all, is but another instance of primate cultures. 

@jlmcnamaraGrooming is also an important part of the snow monkey’s life. Females are the ones who carry the burden of grooming other members of the group, and their techniques are precious: learned through generations, they are not really encoded genetically, so a mother must make sure to pass on her grooming knowledge to her daughters.

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@roiegalitzAs for their mating practices, Japanese macaques are, shall we say, polyamorous. A female mates with about four males during the mating season, and there’s a complex courting system much like in human societies, where he must spend time with her, seduce her, and let her decide whether she wants to mate or not. Dominant males get a longer courtship, but that’s about it.

@veronicalinphotographyAlso, female macaques seem to be preferentially bisexual in general, with no particular interest for engaging in exclusive heterosexual or homosexual behavior throughout their lifetime. 

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@lubayThey are also a very interesting and particular species who acts unusually when compared to other primates. Their tendency for bathing together in hot springs seems unique to them, and it’s a learned behavior rather than a genetic one. They also roll snow balls for fun, develop different accents depending on region and custom, and have proven to be exceedingly intelligent. 

@clareview102But it’s not all fun and games. There’s plenty of dark backdrops behind this snowy paradise, and it’s all because of humans. Whenever there are paying customers waiting in line to see the monkeys enjoying what looks like a life of luxury at the hot-springs, the park attendants make everything in their power to keep the macaques there—even if it’s against the primate’s will.

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@_janellecoCome late afternoon, the macaques naturally want to step away to their homes, but the attendants constantly chase them down to get them back into the springs. 

@_janellecoPeople don’t pay to see empty pools, after all, so it just makes sense to distress the monkeys and force them to stay, right? What’s so beautifully advertised as a non-artificial sight of curious Japanese macaques in their natural habitats turns out to be awfully close to a mere zoo. The macaques seem to actually be in captivity. And that’s disturbing. 

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@elisooker

@philipshead_inc

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@supertastermel

@ldn2hkMacaques have also been used for morally dubious experimentation, and many studies involve disrupting their lives to a great extent. Hopefully, as time goes by and we grow more aware of the minimum moral standards for animal welfare, we’ll learn to leave them alone. For now, we can avoid disturbing them further, and enjoy their charismatic behaviors from a distance.

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@jasperdoest

@tatyanadotsenko108

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