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Friday, December 23, 2016

Species Fact Profile: Japanese Macaque (Macaca fuscata)

Japanese Macaque (Snow Monkey)
Macaca fuscata (Blyth, 1875)

Range: Japan
Habitat: Forests (Sub-Tropical to Sub-Alpine)
Diet: Leaves, Fruits, Berries, Seeds, Small Animals, Insects, Fungi
Social Grouping: Troops of About 40
Reproduction: Breeding usually takes place between September and March.  Females will mate with several males each breeding season.  Single infant (occasionally twins) born after 170 day gestation period).  Infants are carried until they are 1 year old.  Females sexually mature at 3.5 years old, males at 4.5 years old. 
Lifespan: 30 Years
Conservation Status: IUCN Least Concern, CITES Appendix II

  • Body length 47-60 centimeters, tail 7-12 centimeters long.  Weight 8-11 kilograms, males larger than females
  • Long, dense fur is brown to gray in color.  Face and rump are naked, and skin is bright bred
  • Live further north than any other primate, excluding humans, capable of withstanding temperatures of negative fifteen degrees Celsius
  • Macaques may escape extreme cold by soaking in natural hot springs
  • Spend most of their time on the ground, though females are more arboreal than males
  • Troops consist of a group of related females.  Female offspring stay in the troop for life, inheriting the rank of their mother.  Male offspring disperse into other troops.  A strict dominance hierarchy controls access to food and mates
  • Juveniles may be preyed upon by hawk eagles or raccoon dogs; the only natural predator of adults was the Japanese wolf, now extinct
  • A small introduced population of Japanese macaques is found in Texas
  • Not considered endangered, but sometimes killed as an agricultural pest.  It's possible that provisioning troops with food to promote tourism has lead to population increases that are unsustainable, leading to more crop raiding in recent years.
  • Two subspecies - the nominate, and the Yakushima macaque (M. f. yakui), which differs from the others in being smaller and stockier with black hands and feet

Zookeeper's Journal: To visitors, the sight of monkeys lounging or playing in the snow is a surprising one, but it's what Japanese macaques (often known as "snow monkeys" to visitors) do best!  The ability of these macaques to thrive in outdoor environments year-round has made them a hugely popular species for North American zoos, especially those in northern states.  Even more interesting than their cold-hardiness, however, is the degree to what they show what could be described as culture.  Macaques are constantly exploring and making discoveries, which are then passed on to other macaques, even after the original discoverer is dead and gone.  One famous example - a young female in Japan who lived by the sea discovered that her food tasted better after dipping it in salt water.  Soon, almost every other monkey in her troop was seasoning their own food with sea salt!

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