If you ask the snow monkeys in Japan, there is nothing like a dip in the hot tub to beat the chill! On cold winter days hundreds of them can be spotted in the hot springs of Jigokudani Valley (Hell's Valley), in Central Japan.
Aptly named, Hell's Valley is an area surrounded by steep cliffs and cold and hostile looking forests with steam and boiling water coming out of the small crevices in the frozen ground. At an elevation of 850 meters, the ground in this region is covered with snow for almost a third of the year. While this is a hostile environment for humans it is paradise for the snow monkeys, who climb down the steep hills and forests to sit in the hot springs in the daytime during the winter months.
Because it is difficult to find food during the winter months, park rangers feed the monkeys that come here twice a day. Over the years the area has become a major tourist attraction for both locals and international tourists. The snow monkeys don't seem to mind the attention and the clicking of cameras, as long as they don't feel threatened.
ABOUT SNOW MONKEYS
Snow monkeys also known as the Japanese macaques, are medium-sized monkeys, with human-like faces and extremely expressive eyes. Their thick, furry gray or brown coats grow even thicker during the cold winters. They are omnivorous animals, eating primarily fruits, seeds, young leaves and flowers, insects and tree bark.They also eat crabs and bird eggs.
The macaques are social animals who move around in packs of 20 to 30 individuals, usually led by a strong male leader who decides where the group goes and also defends it against enemies. Much-like human beings, these packs become like families and most females remain in the same group their entire lives. They also help groom each other (help each other look beautiful) and moms "baby-sit" each other's young ones.
The Japanese macaques are an endangered species. A lot of them are dying due to the loss of their natural habitat. It is estimated that are there currently only about 35,000 of them left in the wild. The Japanese Government is trying everything it can to conserve these cute animals.
Don't forget to watch the video of them hanging out and "grooming" each other in the hot springs.