Meet the


From cool cultures to cold weather, Japanese macaques are adapted for anything.
From cool cultures to cold weather, Japanese macaques are adapted for anything.

Spotlight on Snow Monkeys

Japanese macaques are among the most northern-living non-human primates on Earth. Thick fur helps these “snow monkeys” endure harsh winters in their native Japan, and their diverse seasonal diet includes everything from fruits and flowers to bark and buds.

Wild snow monkeys live in troops ranging from 10 to more than 100 members. Females stay in their birth groups, with daughters inheriting mom’s rank. These long-lasting female lines make it possible for complex cultures to pass down through the generations — everything from stacking stones to taking dips in hot springs.

Meet the Macaques

Who’s who in the 12-member macaque troop? From Akita to Yuki, Curator of Primates Maureen Leahy introduces us to the snow monkeys — and their personalities.



Male, 9 years old

“Akita seems to be assuming the role of alpha male in this troop. He is vigilant and bold, readily displacing others over preferred food sources or resting locations. He will often intervene to maintain the peace among females having a social dispute. Japanese macaques are sexually dimorphic—males are much larger than females in body size. Akita is the largest individual in the troop, weighing more than 26 pounds.”



Female, 10 years old

“Izumi is emerging as the troop’s dominant female. She divides her time between Akita and another male, Miyagi, but seems to prefer resting next to and grooming the latter. Izumi forages with ease, as other females tend to get out of her way when she approaches a preferred food source. She gave birth to female Iwaki in March 2016—and chose her baby’s name on the touch-screen."



Female, Less Than 1 Year Old

"Izumi’s first offspring at Regenstein Macaque Forest was born in April 2016. Iwaki’s name was actually chosen by her mother, who selected it via a touch-screen computer during a voluntary cognitive research session.”



Female, 10 years old

“Nara seems to be one of the most vocally communicative individuals in the troop. Nara will sometimes partner up with Izumi to assert their dominance as a “team” over females Mito and Yuki. She gave birth to her first baby at Lincoln Park Zoo in April 2016.”



Female, Less Than 1 Year Old

“Nagoya was the third arrival for the snow monkey troop in spring 2016—and the third girl! She’s receiving close care from her mom, Nara.”



Female, 10 years old

"Ono has a tendency for firsts at Regenstein Macaque Forest. This female snow monkey was the first to splash into the exhibit's hot spring, and she was also the first to have a baby—male Obu—in May 2015! Ono also gave birth to a girl in April 2016."



Female, Less Than 1 Year Old

“Ono’s second offspring at Lincoln Park Zoo, female Otaru follows older brother Obu, who was born in May 2015. Both kids received their names in online votes from friends of the zoo!”



Female, 10 years old

“Yuki is the smallest female, weighing about 12.5 pounds. She is often observed negotiating her social status with female Mito. Yuki will mount Mito, often completely climbing onto her back, in an effort to display her dominance. Shortly thereafter, though, Mito will do the same to her, so it seems they are still working things out.”



Female, 9 years old

“Japanese macaques are seasonal breeders, which means the females are only receptive for breeding typically from September–January. During this time, the pink coloration on the females’ faces becomes markedly more intense. Of all the females in the troop, Mito’s face seems to be the most deeply pink.”



Male, 10 years old

“Miyagi spends nearly all his time in close proximity to female Izumi. Miyagi and Izumi often huddle with one another while resting, and they engage in long grooming sessions. Like Akita, Miyagi also has a robust build, weighing 25 pounds.”



Male, 10 years old

“Kuma is the smallest male in the troop. He prefers to spend most of his resting time alone and at a distance from dominant male Akita. It’s not clear yet which females Kuma prefers the most, or vice versa, but he intermittently engages socially with Ono, Mito and Yuki.”

ID the Snow Monkeys

ID the Snow Monkeys

Who's who in the snow monkey troop at Regenstein Macaque Forest? Download our cheat sheet to ID each adult during your visit.
Download the Snow Monkey Cheat Sheet (PDF 1.2 MB)

One Cool Culture

Macaque troops can develop their own cultures—specific, shared behaviors that are unique to each group. Here are some of the different practices that are passed down through the generations.

Heating Up

A dip in a hot spring provides a nice way to warm up during chilly winters. The snow monkeys share the warm pools, although low-ranking macaques may find themselves frozen out of a spot in the water.

Washing What They Eat

Some macaque troops wash foods such as sweet potatoes, cassava and rice in the ocean before they eat. This rinse may remove grit from the food.

Stacking Stones

Macaques have been observed stacking, knocking down and even cuddling stones. Stone play is solitary, although the sight of one macaque doing it seems to encourage others.

Adventurous Eating

A new fish has washed up on shore—are you going to eat it? Some macaque families are more likely to take that first bite, trading a bit of risk for a new source of protein.

Adapted for Anything

Japanese macaques aren’t called snow monkeys for nothing. As the northernmost non-human primates, they need some special adaptations for living in the cold.

Big and Bulky

Thick coats protect snow monkeys from the cold of their native Japan. Macaques also have compact, bulky bodies that reduce the amount of body heat that’s exposed to the elements.

A Tiny Tail

Macaques’ tails are short and stumpy, maxing out at 3.5 inches in length. These reduced rear ends are less likely to feel the nip of frostbite!

Soaking in Hot Springs

It may just look like a nice way to warm up, but snow monkeys leaping into hot springs is also a nifty bit of cultural learning. Lincoln Park Zoo scientists explain the roots of this steamy adaptation at the zoo and in the wild.

Infographic: Families in Focus

What’s family life like for Lincoln Park Zoo’s foremost primates? Gorilla groups, chimpanzee troops and snow monkey societies all have their own special set-ups.

Cool in the Cold

As you can see in this interactive, macaque species range from northern Africa to Indonesia, but Japanese macaques come out on top. Snow monkeys are the northernmost-living primates…besides humans.


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    Similar Seasons a Globe Apart

    In terms of temperature, Chicago is a match for the snow monkeys’ native home in Japan. Both habitats have steamy summers and snowy winters, making the macaques at home here in all four seasons.

    Press the left and right buttons to meet all 22 of the world’s macaque species!

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    Japanese Macaques

    Macaca fuscata

    Not Threatened

    A thick coat and adaptable appetite help these snow monkeys thrive in cool conditions. Wild Japanese macaque groups are known to scour avalanche-cleared slopes for food or take a dip in a hot spring to warm up.

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    Arunachal Macaques

    Macaca munzala


    Found in a small portion of Nepal and northeast India, Arunachal macaques favor mountainous forests. They occupy some of the highest-altitude habitats of any primate.

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    Barbary Macaque

    Macaca sylvanus


    Native to North Africa, Barbary macaques also have a small colony on Gibraltar, making them the only wild monkey in Europe. They inhabit forests and grasslands.

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    Lion-Tailed Macaques

    Macaca silenus


    Lion-tailed macaques live in the rainforest canopy in southern India. They’re known for their long, tufted tails and the gray mane surrounding their faces.

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    Moor Macaques

    Macaca maura


    Found on the southwestern portion of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island, moor macaques feed on rainforest fruits, seeds and insects.

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    Booted Macaques

    Macaca ochreata


    Named for their light-colored limbs, booted macaques spend their days foraging for rainforest fruits and vegetation on the southeastern part of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island.

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    Heck's Macaque

    Macaca hecki


    Found on the northern portion of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island, Heck’s macaques feed on fruits in their rainforest homes.

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    Gorontalo Macaque

    Macaca nigrescens


    Gorontalo macaques are found at the northeastern end of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island. This rainforest species feeds on fruits and vegetation.

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    Celebes Crested Macaque

    Macaca nigra

    Critically Endangered

    Named for its central tuft of hair, the Celebes crested macaque is found at the far northeastern tip of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island. It splits its time between rainforest trees and the ground, foraging for fruits to eat.

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    Formosan Rock Macaques

    Macaca cyclopis

    Not Threatened

    Taiwan’s only non-human primates, Formosan rock macaques inhabit grasslands as well as bamboo and temperate forests. Their diet consists of fruits, vegetation and insects.

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    Assam Macaques

    Macaca assamensis

    Near Threatened

    Native to South Asia, Assam macaques favor temperate forests and rainforests at moderate altitudes. They feed on fruits, leaves and insects.

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    Southern Pig-Tailed Macaques

    Macaca nemestrina


    Ranging from Malaysia to Indonesia, these macaques are named for the curl of their tail. They live in rainforests, both on the ground and in the trees.

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    Northern Pig-Tailed Macaques

    Macaca leonine


    This macaque sports a similar tail to its southern cousins but lives further north in Southeast Asia. They also favor rainforests, where they eat fruits year-round.

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    Pagai Island Macaques

    Macaca pagensis

    Critically Endangered

    Pagai Island macaques are only found on three of the Mentawai islands off the west coast of Sumatra. They live in the rainforest canopy, where they forage for fruit.

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    Siberut Macaques

    Macaca siberu


    These rainforest-dwelling, fruit-eating macaques are found only on Indonesia’s Siberut Island.

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    Tonkean Macaque

    Macaca tonkeana


    Tonkean macaques occupy the central part of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island as well as the neighboring Togian Islands. These rainforest dwellers favor a diet of fruit.

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    Stump-Tailed Macaque

    Macaca arctoides


    Thick fur and a short tail help stump-tailed macaques adapt to cold living conditions at high elevations in southern Asia. This rainforest species feeds on everything from fruit to vegetation and small animals.

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    Rhesus Macaques

    Macaca mulatta

    Not Threatened

    Found from Pakistan to China, rhesus macaques have the widest geographic range of any non-human primate. They’ve adapted to habitats including grasslands, forests and even urban settings, where they can come into conflict with humans.

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    Toque Macaques

    Macaca sinica


    Named for the cap-like fur on their heads, toque macaques are found only on the island of Sri Lanka. They live in rainforests from the coast up into the mountains; monkeys at higher elevations have adapted to cold temperatures with thick fur and shorter limbs.

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    Bonnet Macaque

    Macaca radiata

    Not Threatened

    Named for their hat-like fur, bonnet macaques are native to southern India. These fruit- and seed-eaters range from forests and rainforests to urban areas, where they can come into conflict with humans for raiding crops.

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    Tibetan Macaques

    Macaca thibetana

    Near Threatened

    Tibetan macaques live in high-altitude forests and rainforests in Tibet and China. Thick fur and short tails help them thrive in the region’s cold climates.

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    Crab-Eating Macaque

    Macaca fascicularis

    Not Threatened

    Crab-eating macaques are found widely through Southeast Asia and Indonesia, feeding on everything from fruit to crabs. Occupying habitats from rainforests to fields, they frequently live alongside—and come into conflict with—humans.

Adaptable Eaters

Wild snow monkeys have a menu that changes with the seasons. During Japan’s summers they feast on plentiful fruit, flowers, seeds, leaves and even mushrooms. Green eats are harder to find in winter, though. When the weather turns cold, Japanese macaques nibble roots and buds.

The snow monkeys at Regenstein Macaque Forest enjoy a steady, nutritious diet in all four seasons: fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, leafy greens and specialty "primate biscuits."


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    Streamside Berries

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