As dedicated publicists of the Jigokudani Snow Monkeys, we are always excited when our favourite furry residents make international news. Over the past few weeks they have been making headlines following research that indicates that the snow monkeys, just like people, bathe in the hot springs in order to relax and relieve stress.
The macaques of Jigokudani have been observed soaking themselves in onsens (natural hot springs) for many years now. Recently, researchers from Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute tracked 12 female monkeys (aged 5 to 24) over two seasons – October to December (autumn to early winter/mating season) and April to June (spring/birthing season). During this time, the bathing habits of the individual snow monkeys were observed and their excrement was analyzed for hormones indicative of stress levels.
The study confirmed that the monkeys utilize the baths more often in winter; hardly surprising given the harsh climate and heavy snow they must endure. It also refleced that the snow monkeys of higher social ranking took longer baths; something which again, comes as no surprise as it can be readily observed by any frequent visitor to the park.
Most interestingly the study revealed that the same monkeys – those that bathed the longest – showed the lowest levels of stress hormones in their samples. The research appears therefore to confirm that the snow monkeys (just like we humans) are not just soaking in the hot springs to stay warm, but also as a means to relax, unwind, and reduce the stress of their monkey lives!
The research concludes that lower stress levels in females has significant benefits to both the individual monkeys and overall troop in that it increases the likelihood of reproduction and group survival. Indeed, 8 of the 12 females that were tracked through the autumn and early winter gave birth in spring.
With that in mind, and as we again move into late April and May, we are excited to announce the arrival of the first baby snow monkey of 2018! There is no better time to visit the Jigokudani Monkey Park! The weather is warm, the park is green, and the babies are taking their first curious steps into the world.
Come and join us on one of our tours to explore the snow monkey park and a whole lot more!