A troop of Japanese macaques, sometimes known as snow monkeys, start their days with a peaceful soak in their own personal hot tub in Jigokudani Monkey Park, Japan. The trouble is, Jigokudani has a lot of natural hot springs, and one particular colony of snow monkeys loves them. They’ve been taking baths and attracting people from all around the world for nearly 70 years.
Hasan Jasim was astounded by these tiny fellas’ enthusiasm for their spa, so we decided to share a glimpse of their bath time with our readers.
Legend says they learned about bathing by accident.
Local ski resort development began in the 1950s, moving macaques out of their natural habitat and closer to human populations. The local innkeeper started feeding the monkeys and reporting back to researchers. One of the inn’s customers dropped an apple into the outdoor hot spring one day. When a baby monkey attempted to collect the apple from the water, they discovered they enjoyed it.
Other baby monkeys soon joined them in the steaming water. All of the monkeys had had relaxing baths in the onsen within a few months. Jigokudani Monkey Park was founded as a result in 1964.
Or maybe they learned this from humans.
Jigokudani Monkey Park’s colony of monkeys is the only one of its kind in the world to have such spa days. Perhaps they picked up on this behavior from humans who did the same thing. After seeing the inn’s human guests swimming and relaxing in the pool, the macaques decided to give it a try and became hooked.
They bathe to relax and de-stress.
Researchers previously assumed that monkeys dipped in hot water to keep warm throughout the winter. Hot springs, on the other hand, appear to be valued for their stress-relieving effects. Snow monkeys, like us, cope with stress and cold weather by taking warm baths. Pregnant women, in particular, spend more time in the spa “chilling.”
Visiting the hot springs is a natural part of their daily activity.
Remember that they are wild monkeys. Nothing is compelling them to stay in the park or swim. The animals are free to come and go as they want, just like they are in any national park. They keep returning because they enjoy themselves.
These monkeys are so zen that they don’t mind the almost 500 visitors that come to photograph them every day.
Monkey babies enjoy playing leapfrog as much as human ones.
Would you like to visit this park? What kind of animal enrichment do you wish to see more of in national parks around the world?