Menu
Meet the

Macaques

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

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.

Akita

Akita

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.”

Izumi

Izumi

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."

Iwaki

Iwaki

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.”

Nara

Nara

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.”

Nagoya

Nagoya

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.”

Ono

Ono

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."

Otaru

Otaru

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!”

Yuki

Yuki

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.”

Mito

Mito

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.”

Miyagi

Miyagi

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.”

Kuma

Kuma

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.

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."

Follow Lincoln Park Zoo
© 2015 Lincoln Park Zoo | Media Credits | Feedback or Questions? Contact us at snowmonkeys@lpzoo.org | site by Orbit Media