SNOW MONKEYS (JAPANESE MACAQUE)
Japanese macaques, commonly known as snow monkeys, are found in the wild only in Japan. They live farther north than any other non-human primate. Like tanukis they are central characters in many folk tales and stories.
There are an estimated 150,000 snow monkey living in Japan, a tenfold increase from the World War II era. They range from semi-tropical regions of islands south of Kyushu to the forests and mountains of northern Honshu. Hokkaido is too cold for the snow monkeys. Their ancestors are believed to have arrived from the Korean peninsula 500,000 to 300,000 years ago, long before the first humans arrived. They arrived mostly from the south and west and adapted to the climate and spread over time.
The Japanese macaques living in Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori Prefecture in far northern Honshu are the northernmost population of monkeys in the world. Their numbers have increased 10-fold in the last 40 years. They are protected but widely regarded as pests. Monkeys that endure very cold weather are also found in the mountains of China.
Humans have been fascinated with snow monkeys for some time. Representations of macaques have been found on prehistoric pottery. In folklore, such as the famous story about the monkey and the crab, monkeys are portrayed as clever thieves.
Websites and Resources
Good Websites and Sources: Primate Info on the Japanese Macaque primate.wisc.edu/factsheets ;Japanese Macaque blueplanetbiomes.org ; BBC Japanese Macaque Page bbc.co.uk/nature ; Snow Monkeys and Humans forestrescue.com ; Sperm Competition and the Function of Masturbation in Japanese Macaques deposit.d-nb.de/cgi-bin ;
Yudanaka is the home of Jigokudani (Hell Valley), where snow monkeys take a hot spring bath. Websites: Jigokudani snow monkey site jigokudani-yaenkoen.co ; Zeno’s Snow Monkey Guide yudanaka-shibuonsen.com ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Kojima Island (near Nichinan in Miyazaki in southern Kyushu) is famous for it troupes of wild macaques who wash their food in both saltwater and freshwater and separating grains of rice from sand by cleverly throwing them into the water and collecting the rice grains, which float. Japan National Tourism Organization JNTO Miyazaki Prefecture site Kanko Miyazaki
Links in this Website: ANIMALS AND ENDANGERED ANIMALS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; ALIEN ANIMALS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; BEARS, DEER, SEROW AND WILD BOARS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TANUKIS, FLYING SQUIRRELS, SMALL MAMMALS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SNOW MONKEYS (JAPANESE MACAQUES) Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; EAGLES, SWANS, CROWS AND BIRDS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE CRANES Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; IBISES AND CORMORANTS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SNAKES, FROGS, LIZARDS AND TURTLES IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; BEETLES, LAND CRABS AND INSECTS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; PLANTS AND FORESTS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; GIANT SQUIDS, SHARKS , THE SEA AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; WHALES, WHALING AND DOLPHIN HUNTS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; PETS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; EXOTIC PETS, BIRD FIGHTS AND BEETLES IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; DOGS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; DOG BREEDS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan
Good Sites on Wild Animals: Animal Info animalinfo.org/country/japan ;Japan Animals Blog /japan-animals.blogspot.com ; Hub Pages on Wild Animals in Japan hubpages.com/hub/japanfacts ; ARKive (do a Search for Japan or the Animal Species You Want) arkive.org Animal Picture Archives (do a Search for the Animal Species You Want) animalpicturesarchive
Snow Monkeys and Macaques
Macaques are a kind of monkey that spends most of its time on the ground and has little use of its tail. There are about 60 different species and subspecies and they range from the Atlantic to the Pacific in Eurasia.
David Attenborough wrote, "The macaque is one of the most successful and versatile of all primates. If you wanted to pick a monkey that is bright, adaptable, versatile, resilient, enterprising, tough and capable of surviving in extreme conditions and taking on all comers, the macaque would win hands down.
Macaques have a larger brain than other monkeys. This gives them the mental capacity to move their hands and fingers with almost human dexterity and provides them with sophistical hand to eye coordination.
Japanese Macaque Characteristics
Japanese macaque have pink faces and rumps, grey or burnt amber fur. They have strong teeth and short tails that are only about four inches long. They have a life-span of 30 to 40 years.
Adult males are 88 to 95 centimeters tall and weigh 10 to 14 kilograms. Females are 79 to 84 centimeters from head to foot long and weigh between 8 and 10 kilograms. Males have a different shaped face and bright red testicles. Adults males are as strong as a man.
Snow monkeys can survive in temperatures that drop to as low -14̊C in the winter. They are cloaked in thick, soft fur which consists of an outer layer of course hairs and shorter denser tufts underneath. This thick coat of hair allows them to live so far north.
Japanese macaques do not hibernate and normally survive the cold months by feeding on thin shoots and winter buds of deciduous trees. They also strip away the outer bark of trees and eat the inner bark.
The Japanese macaques found in Yakushima in southern Jaoan are not as well adapted for cold weather and are identified as a subspecies. They are generally smaller and have less fur than the snow monkeys found further north. A large body gives them a higher ratio of body weight to skin surface area and this helps prevent heat loss through perspiration.
Japanese Macaque Behavior
Japanese macaques are omnivorous but they mostly eat plants. They have traditionally subsisted on fruits, seeds, beechnuts, acorns, chestnuts, insects and shellfish but will eat most anything: roots, tubers, bulbs, shoots, buds, spiders, snails, centipedes, moles, shrews, crayfish, shoots, leaves, mussels. grubs, insects, worms, crabs, fallen nuts and even frogs and poisonous snakes. They favor shoots and spring plants in the spring and fruits and seeds in the autumn. When desperate in severe winter months they eat bark. They also eat a wide variety of crops and human food.
Macaques spend a lot of time grooming, mostly sorting out tangles, removing and picking out fleas and insects. Grooming also is important in establishing and maintaining social bonds.
In the Arashiyama area near Kyoto macaques bang stones together for what appears to be no special reason other than the sheer pleasure of it. They have also been observed leap frogging over one another and huddling together to stay warm in strong blizzards.
Snow monkeys form alliances, engage in petty squabbling and focus a great deal of attention on sex. Females display their superiority to inferiors by displaying their rear end in front of them. Monkeys in Mino near Osaka have learned to steal purses and wallets and take out the coins use them to buy drinks and snacks from vending machines.
Young snow monkeys have been observed making snowballs and carrying them as play objects. Adult have been seen playing with snow balls made by young monkeys. Although these animals have been seen standing on top of snowballs and rolling them, no one has ever seen a snow monkey throw a snowball.
Infants play around but are always aware of where their mother is. Adolescent males wander off during the mating season but come back if no other troupe is in the vicinity.
Japanese Macaque Group Behavior
Snow monkey travel in troupes that vary a great deal in size, sometimes with hundreds, even thousands, of members. Social behavior is often determined by the environment. In places where food is plentiful and there are no threats from humans there is no leader. Troupes in the colder north tend to smaller, more egalitarian with a looser hierarchy of males and females
Social structure is centered around matrilineal subgroups, typically comprised of an older female, her daughters and their offspring, and even granddaughters of the offspring and some adult males. Large groups are comprised of a number of matrilineal subgroups, as well as adult males that have joined the troupe.
Troupes are always on the move but generally stay within a well-defined territory. Females usually spend their entire lives in the troupe of their birth while males leave and join other troupes as they mature. From an biological perspective this helps insure genetic diversity. Males stay in the group of their mother when they are young but later leave and look for a new group to join.
Some individuals are not accepted as adults until they are 14, old in the tooth for a monkey. "Even at three or four," anthropologist Lou Griffin told Discover magazine, "snow monkeys still make serious social mistakes—like not remembering who exactly is the boss of their troupe."
Sometimes when the troupes get too large they split up, with dominant families forming one troupe and weaker families forming the second troupe. When these splits occur, males over the age of five leave the troupe with their closest female relatives, which results in the increasing of each group's genetic diversity.
Japanese Macaque Group Hierarchy
Each monkey's social status is largely determined by the status of its family in the troupe. On rare occasions a particularly intelligent or aggressive individual will move up the social ladder and take its family with it.
Each group is ruled by a dominant alpha male and alpha female. "They are the absolute," said Griffin. "The others meekly follow along." The responsibilities of the leaders include getting the troupe up in the morning and leading it to food and breaking up fights.
Describing the social organization of snow monkeys, Griffin told Discover magazine, "Their pecking order is unmistakable. It is not simply a matter of size or strength, age or intelligence. They have a rigid class system almost as rigid as ours. Any of them can move up or down the social ladder, and sometimes we can only guess why."
Studies of monkeys in Oita found that the leader is not necessarily the biggest and strongest and even the most well respected. The leader of a group with 700 monkeys appeared to have attained his position through seniority. He was the oldest monkey and got the choice of the best food but he was often rejected by females, avoided fights and often had his food stolen by young monkeys.
Snow monkeys huddle together for warmth, Their lack of strict social hierarchy allows high-ranking and low ranking individuals to share tight spaces without major incidents.
Large Monkey Troops and Their Leaders
Zoro is the name given to leader of a 696-member troop of monkeys Oita Prefecture. He became leader after wrestling a banana away from the previous leader in December 1998 and was still leader 11 years and 11 months later— a record in Japan — in March 2010 when he was 28 years old.
In February 2011, a new leader became the head of the 816-member monkey troop at the Monkey Park in Mt. Takasaki in Oita. The new leader, Benz, who was believed to be 32 years old in 2011, became leader after the former leader disappeared about a month before. Benz had been leader to the park’s other monkey group when he was about nine years old, but it later expelled him over “romantic relations” with a female who was in his current group, according to the park.
Passed On Japanese Macaque Behavior
Snow monkeys can convey new ideas through social groups and pass on skills from one generation to the next. In 1953 Japanese researchers on the island of Kojima observed a female monkey they named Imo wash sand from a dirty sweet potato. Later, other members picked up on the idea and before long almost every member of her troupe did it, as did their offspring. Some did it fresh in water. Some did in salt water, possibly because they liked the salty taste.
Later Imo displayed an even more extraordinary behavior. When she found grains of wheat mixed with sand she tossed the mixture into water. The sand sank. The grain floated, and she was able to eat it. This habit also spread among the other members of the troupe.
Kojma Island, near Koshima Island, is about 200 meters of the Ishinami Coast in eastern Kushima, Miyazaki Prefecture. Today about 80 macaques live in the island. On Kojima, the scientists often provided food for the monkeys by simply tossing a bag of sweet potatoes on the beach. Some monkeys placed one in their mouth and limped away holding another in their hand. Some developed an ability to fill their arms with sweet potatoes and run off on their hinds legs. Some scientists have speculated that early humans may have starting walking on two legs for similar reasons.
The habit that some snow monkeys have of seeking respite from the winter cold by sitting in hot springs is a behavioral trait that has also been passed on. The habit began with a troupe of monkeys that lived in the mountains in northern Honshu that began using a hot spring used by humans. As they extended their range they discovered some volcanic hot springs. First only a few took a bath in the warm water. But after they tried it others did and the habit spread and became an activity that the monkeys did every winter.
In 1982 a troupe of snow monkeys was brought to Texas where they developed a taste for cactus and mesquite and invented new "words" for these food as well as warning against rattlesnakes and scorpions. They also began to sweat, something they never did in Japan. Today there are around 600 snow monkeys in Texas.
Japanese Macaque Dialects
A study of the calls of snow monkey living on Yakushima island in Kagoshima and calls of some of their relatives moved from the island to Inuyama, Aichi prefecture in 1956 indicates that monkeys have different dialects, The study by researchers at Kyoto University Primate Research Institute found that the calls of the two monkey populations were the same until around age nine months. After that the monkeys on Yakushima began making high-pitched calls that they monkey in Aichi didn’t make. Yakushima is much densely wooded that the area where the monkeys lived in Aichi and it is reasoned that the Yakushima monkeys make high pitched calls because these sounds carry better in dense foliage.
Because the monkeys come from the same genetic stock it is reasoned that have to have changed their vocal patterns to adapt to their environment. One of scientists involved in the project. Prof. Nobou Masataka, told the Asahi Shimbun: “We proved that the pitch of monkey cries is not determined by heredity, but is learned according to their environment. These results offer clues to discovering how differences in human languages developed.”
Prof. Masataka, told the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Regional differences in monkey calls can be regarded as dialects. Monkey sounds indicate the linguistic roots of human being, as young monkeys pass on their calls from their parents or other monkeys in their groups.”
Japanese Macaque Aggression and Mating Behavior
Squabbles are common but fights are rare. Conflicts among males are avoided by symbolical acknowledgment of dominant-submissive relationships. Subordinate males show their deference to superiors by turning backwards and moving their rump forward in an action known as "presenting." The dominate male responds by "mounting" the subordinate monkey and assumeing the copulation position for a few seconds. After this formality is observed the two males can then forage peacefully together.
Most snow monkey fights are vocal not physical. Usually the winner is the monkey who screams down his opponent. Most knock-down-drag-out fights occur during the mating season.
Snow monkeys are not adverse to using their sharp teeth on other monkeys. According to Griffin one of the worst punishments one monkey can inflict on another is "holding the other firmly in its teeth and then pinching it."
Japanese macaques give birth once a year, usually in April and May. There are few monogamous relationships in the troupe but when they do appear they are very strong. Adults seem to be more tolerant of some youngsters than others, but it is not clear whether they are the fathers of these young monkeys. The rear end of females turned red during the breeding season.
Snow Monkeys and Humans
Images of snow monkeys have been found in tombs dating back to the Jomon period (10,000 B.C. to 300 B.C.). The animals appeared in famous scrolls in Kozanji Temple from the Heian period (794-1192) . In the Kamakura period (1192-1333) large numbers of Japanese began wearing monkey charms to keep evil away. “Saru” the Japanese word for monkey can mean “go away,”as in making evil spirits go away. Monkeys were hunted for medicines.
Snow monkeys do not try to drive away humans from their territory as long as they are not seen as a threat. Often they can be quite welcoming. Yukihisa Mito, who studied the animals for 30 years told the Daily Yomiuri he once fell asleep while observing them and awoke with something touching his hair. “I opened my eyes slightly and found myself being groomed by a monkey I recognized from the troupe I’d been following. This made me feel happy.”
In the past the numbers of monkeys and their presence in inhabited areas was controlled by hunters and dogs. Today, in many places, snow monkeys have lost their fear of humans and are not afraid to try and snatch food and other things from the humans. One shouldn't stare at a snow monkey, that makes them edgy.
Conservationists say that the encroachment of farms and human development on the forest where the monkeys have additionally lived have tempted the monkeys away from their normal food sources. Monkeys that live on food given to them by humans and rummaged from garbage area are bigger and give birth to more young than monkeys that don’t eat human food. Snow monkeys reportedly love greasy food and food from McDonald’s.
Japanese macaques are listed as endangered even though there seems to be plenty of them around. In August 2008, a snow monkey was seen at Shibuya station in one of the busiest parts of Tokyo. It manages to escape efforts to catch it and was last seen heading in the direction of Shinjuku. The Yakushima macaque and the Japanese macaque on the Shimokita Peninsula, the remote northern cape of Honshu, have been removed from the endangered list as their numbers have been increasing.
A popular You Tube video in 2008 showed Japanese macaques serving drinks and hot towels at a Japanese restaurant. Perhaps the most famous Japanese macaque was Choromatsu, a trained animal featured in a famous Sony Walkman ad from the 1980s that showed a monkey listening to a Walkman with a very human-like relaxed, content expression on its face. Choromatsu regular appeared in animal shows until his retirement in 1990. He died at the age of 29 in 2007.
Snow Monkey as Pests
Snow monkeys sometimes raid farms, eating things like soybeans, watermelons, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, potatoes and mushrooms. Each year snow monkeys destroys about 5,000 hectares of farmland, costing farmers $6 million. The total damage caused by monkeys in 2006 was estimated at ¥1.63 billion.
Some snow monkeys make forays into towns and occasionally trash Shinto Shrines. The snow monkeys around the town Odawara are notorious for sneaking into homes and shops to steal tangerines, sweet potatoes and candy bars. One man told AP, "They came right into my house. My wife tried to scare them with a mop, but they chased her all the way to the train station."
In Nikko and others places with many tourist, monkeys are known for breaking into cars are stealing food. Sometimes they confront people and don’t leave until they have been given a banana or some other such goodies. In Nikko there is one monkey that positions itself in road and leaps on the hood of any car that stops demanding food. Other try to leap through open windows of cars going up to 20mph. Sometimes packs surround tourists and snatch stuff out of their hands. In residential areas, people are afraid to leave the windows of their homes open or let their children walk unescorted to school out of fear of what monkeys might do.
In Gunma Prefecture gangs of monkeys have broken into homes to steal food and attacked children walking to elementary school, running off with their snacks. Monkeys there invaded one home and stole vegetables and threw tiles off the roof.
In June 2009, a single monkey cut off power ro 7,000 household in Aomori Prefecture. The monkey was found unable to move with burns on its hands and legs at a circuit breaker box. It is believed it received a severe jolt when it touched the box and that caused a short circuit and power failure.
Many researchers blame human forestry for aggressive monkey behavior. The mono forests that cover many areas are void of food, leaving the monkeys with no choice but to look for food in human-occupied areas. Some also say the declining population in villages is a factor as there are fewer people to watch over the farms and prevent monkey raids.
Battles Between Humans and Snow Monkeys
Monkeys in many places have become very bold. The 100 or so monkeys in Okunikko resort in Nikko have attacked tourists and damaged houses and souvenir shops. Each year between 15 and 40 people are treated at local hospitals in the Okunikko area for monkey bites. It is believed that feeding by tourists caused the monkeys to lose their fear of humans and become aggressive. In other places there are stories about monkeys “molesting women and children.”
Preventive measures to stop aggressive monkeys includes planting hot peppers, which monkey loath; putting nets around fields; and outfitting monkeys with collars that set off alarms and signals sent to mobile phones. In some places farmers use dogs to disperse the monkeys (monkeys have great fear of carnivorous dogs), bang pans and lure the out of fields into parking lots with peanuts. To reduce the damages caused by snow monkeys in the resort of Okunikko, the municipal government of Nikko passed city ordinances prohibiting the feeding of monkeys.
Some farmers have installed electric fences to keep snow monkeys from raiding their crops. Some shopowners have armed themselves with slingshots and airguns but so far these weapons have done little to deter the monkey raids. In some places authorities have tried giving monkeys electric shocks to instill a fear of humans but many people complained the practice was cruel.
Snow monkeys learn quickly learn to get around fences and see through scarecrows. Some areas have had great success thinning out forests and bush in places where monkeys like to hide and clearing areas around school and other places that monkeys might come into contact with people to create a buffer zone to alert monkeys and humans of each other’ presence. Researchers have show that monkeys are more likely to act aggressively if they they have a place they can retreat to.
Aggressive Monkeys in the Mt. Fuji Area
Aggressive monkeys injured at least 81 people in the foothills of Mt. Fuji in and around the towns of Mishima and Susono in Shizuoka Prefecture, with most of the victims sustaining bites to the arm or leg, in a one month period in August and September 2010. Local authorities responded to problem by providing escorts for children on their way to school, hired a 150-strong monkey catch team and offering a reward of $2,300 to anyone who could trap an aggressive monkey in a room (laws prevent the seizure of monkeys with nets or cages without permission).
The primary culprit was female given the name Rakkii, who attacked nearly 120 residents. She was ultimately caught and kept in a park in Mishima and was even featured in a television commercial to promote the city’s mayoral race. A few months later though she escaped from her cage when it was being cleaned. She was caught a day later and punished by having her marriage to another monkey, which had previously been arranged, called off. She was captured after a resident said she saw Rakkii in a garden at a private house. A city employee who took care of her offered her bananas and grabbed her after calming her down.
Animal experts told officials that the monkeys in Mishima and Susono may have attacked people out mischievousness and said the attacks would probably end once the monkeys got bored. An official told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “The attacks started very suddenly. We don’t know why. Only the monkeys can tell you why they started.”
Japanese Macaque Killed After Attacking Two People in Tennessee
Describing an attack by a pet Japanese macaque in Shelbyville Tennessee, David Melson wrote in the Shelbyville Times-Gazette: A monkey was shot and killed by a Bedford County deputy Thursday morning after it attacked a woman and another deputy and terrorized a Frank Martin Road neighborhood. Michelle Pyrdum, 42, said she underwent surgery for a deep gash to her calf muscle after the monkey attacked her from behind in her driveway. "All I remember thinking is 'I have to get this thing off me," she said. [Source: David Melson, Times-Gazette Friday, August 5, 2011]
Cpl. Ronnie Gault of the Bedford County Sheriff's Department suffered two deep cuts to his arm while attempting to subdue the monkey after he and Capt. David Williams, Sr. arrived. Williams shot the monkey twice, the second shot proving fatal, after a shot by Gault failed to subdue it. Ricky and Wilma Smith owned "Yoshi," which Gault said was a 3½ -foot tall Japanese macaque, also known as a "snow monkey." Four other monkeys were removed from the Smith home by animal rescue organizations. [Ibid]
Pyrdum said she was shocked at the sudden bite. "I was waxing my truck and I didn't know it was back there. I felt this clamp on my leg. It took a chunk out of me," said Pyrdum, who was still woozy from medication after treatment for her wounds at Middle Tennessee Medical Center in Murfreesboro. "I was just standing in my yard and minding my own business. The monkey was on the garage at right when deputies arrived following a 911 call from Linda Pyrdum. The confrontation with Cpl. Ronnie Gault and Capt. David Williams Sr. occurred a short distance to the left. "I had to take my hand and get his mouth off of me. It clamped down on me.” [Ibid]
Pyrdum's father, Charles Pyrdum, said he heard Michelle screaming for help and wasn't initially sure what type of animal had attacked. "When I saw it I didn't know what it was," Charles said. "She was yelling, 'Daddy, get it off me.' I didn't have anything to hit it with." Charles said he followed the monkey as it ran away toward the Smith home. Family members said Michelle initially refused pain medication while standing in her driveway looking to see if the monkey would return. She said she received multiple stitches and will be taking anti-rabies medication for two weeks. Gault said he is receiving similar treatment. [Ibid]
The monkeys had received regular shots and veterinary checks some time ago but those records aren't up-to-date, said Brenda Goodrich, director of Bedford County Animal Control. Michelle's mother, Linda, said she was aware of the monkeys' presence in the neighborhood. "We knew that they were there because someone told us they had monkeys and one bit a neighbor about a year and a half ago. We'd never seen them," Linda Pyrdum said. [Ibid]
Deputies arrived shortly after 8 a.m. and began searching for the monkey. "He was a danger and threat to the entire neighborhood," Gault said. "The owner said he had the monkey pinned and the latch secured where he couldn't get out -- but he managed to get out." The monkey was found atop a garage at 419 Frank Martin Road, several houses down from Pyrdum's residence, deputies said."We went to 419 to see if we could see the owner and confronted the monkey," Gault said. "We had given the owner some time to try and see if he could get the monkey back into its cage. The monkey ran from him and directly toward me.” [Ibid]
Gault attempted unsuccessfully to physically control the monkey, which he said had been "friendly" with him several years ago during a call to the Smith home. "After he bit her he was ill and popping his teeth," Gault said. "When I shot him the first time it was in the right of the chest. It made him madder and that's when he went on the real attack. I didn't want to shoot him in the head.” [Ibid]
Gault said he attempted to use his shotgun to push away the monkey. "He went down but went right back up and pounced on me," Gault said. "I knocked him down with my gun and he came back up and pounced on me again and caught me on the arm. I was beating him off my arm with the shotgun barrel. "He hit the ground that time and David Sr. shot him with a shotgun. Then he ran around behind me and David shot him again and he didn't come back up." Bedford County Animal Control took the monkey's body and has sent its head to the state, Gault said. "I have several large gashes on my arm. No stitches, he said." Doctors want the wounds to heal from the inside in an attempt to fend off any diseases the monkey may have been carrying.
Monkey Management in the Nikko Area
In April 2002, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The Tochigi prefectural government will give lectures to local residents in Nikko in the prefecture to help them oust mischievous monkeys rampaging around the Okunikko area northwest of the city. The monkeys first bit and harassed the occasional tourist, but their mischief now has escalated into a serious problem for local agriculture and forests. Both the prefectural and the Nikko municipal governments have tackled the problem by giving monkeys electric shocks or by banning tourists from feeding them. However, their efforts have had little success. "We expect to use the brains of local people to combat this monkey menace," said an official of the prefectural government's natural environment division. Damage caused by monkeys last year to the agricultural sector was estimated at 24 million yen, while that to forests was 3 million yen. However, invisible damages have also emerged, such as workers in the agricultural and forestry industries giving up their jobs because they can no longer bear the years of monkey mischief. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, April 29, 2002]
A new strategy to combat the monkeys will make use of transmitters attached to about 30 of the pesky primates. The officials will track groups of the monkeys, then attempt to frighten them by shooting off fireworks before they get close to areas where humans live. The officials have been trained in how to use the receivers and fireworks and have studied the behavioral patterns and ecology of monkeys. The prefectural government will offer a lecture from the end of May to the local residents and those who are willing to join in the project. The government will train a group of specialists in the art of monkey combat and vows to get the better of the beasts in the end. The lecture will be offered about five times a year. However, the government says it will offer more lectures and lend receivers to local people when they are needed. In addition, from fiscal 2002, the government will strengthen its monkey patrol along the Irohazaka road, a famous sight-seeing spot near the city. The new system not only warns tourists of monkey attacks, but also instructs them on how to disperse the prehensile-tailed pests.
Officials said they have redoubled their vigilance and are now focusing on monkey management year round, rather than the spring to autumn tourist season. The prefectural government used to give electric shocks to captured monkeys to implant a sense of fear in them. However, even if this technique succeeded in breaking the spirits of one group of monkeys, another would come to take its place, which would have little effect on long-term monkey discipline problems, sources said. The electric-shock project lasted for only three months because tourists complained it was cruel. The effects of the 2000 municipal ordinance, prohibiting tourists from feeding monkeys, have been similarly unremarkable, sources said.
Dogs and Dead Monkeys
Dogs have proved to be very effective chasing off monkeys. Labradors and German shepherds have been specially trained for three or four months to drive off monkeys. Sometimes the same facilities that are used to train police dogs and used to train monkey-hunting dogs.
As of 2008, 194 monkey-chasing dogs were being used in 42 municipalities in 21 prefectures in Japan. Describing dogs used on the Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “When they are given the go-ahead the dogs set off into the nearby forested areas populated by monkeys. The forest is at first filled with monkey calls, but when the dogs bark. The calls stop and the monkeys retreat. Katagawa then sends the dogs in the direction of the retreating monkeys as they start to make noises again, driving them away from the edge of the farmland and into the mountains.”
Every year about 10,000 monkeys are killed. In most cases they are shot with guns. In some cases they are captured and then starved or drowned. In other places they are beaten to death. In some places $1,000 bounties are offered for the killing of troupe leaders. Each year about 10,000 monkeys are captured. In August 2009, a hunter shot killed a fellow hunter during a monkey cull in Chiba Prefecture in a mountain area after mistaking the victim for a monkey.
In January 2009, the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo said I would accept 20 trouble-making and crop-damaging monkeys from Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori Prefecture to prevent them from being out down.
Snow Monkeys and Alien Monkeys
In the early 1960s, a group of ten Taiwanese macaques escaped from a small zoo in Wakayama Prefecture. Eating bayberries and other local foods and thriving in the mild climate, the group expanded to 200 members by the 2000.
Some Taiwanese macaques have tails shorter than their parents, which has led some people to believe they crossbred with Japanese macaques, which have shorter tails. Some worry that if this trend continues the purity of Japanese macaques could be threatened.
A troupe of about 100 rhesus monkeys live on the Boso peninsula in Chiba prefecture. No one is exactly sure how they got there.
Monkey and Chimpanzee Research
Researcher can distinguish individual monkeys based on the shape of the eyes and nose, color the face, wrinkles between the eyebrows.
The pioneer of snow monkey studies in Japan are Kinji Imanishi (1902-1992), Junichito Itani (1926-2001) and Masao Kawai (1923- ), ecologists at Kyoto University, who came to Koshima to study wild horses after World War II but began studying the monkeys on Kojima after becoming fascinated by their unusual behavior. Their first major discovery came in 1953 when a Satsue Mirto, a former primary school teacher in Miyazaki, wrote the scientists, describing a 1½-year-old female she saw washing a potato.
The Kyoto University primate study group discovered an auditory communication system among the monkeys and described the hierarchy of monkey groups, creating the basis for primatology. The theory that the monkeys possessed culture and passed it on from one generation to the next was published in 1954 and stirred up controversy around the world by giving examples in the animal kingdom of behaviors once though to be the exclusively human, blazing a trail for primatologists like Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey
Toshisada Nishida of Kyoto University is one of the world’s leading chimpanzee researchers. The recipient of the 2008 Louis Leakey anthropological award, he has spent much of life studying chimpanzees in Tanzania. Among his discoveries are that low ranking males sometimes play a kingmaking role, deciding who the dominate male will be.
Image Sources: Japan-Animals blog, Wolfgang Kaehler, JNTO, Japan Zone, British Museum
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated January 2013