by Darrin Zammit-Lupi Published 01/08/2015
Back in 1997, a photograph of a macaque (a type of monkey) appeared in Life magazine. Nothing too special about that, except that the monkey, together with a group of others, was enjoying a good soak in a natural outdoor hot-spring pool. It so happened that it was snowing that day and most of the macaques' heads were covered in snow, as though they were wearing pretty white bonnets.
And so started the attraction of the Snow Monkeys of Yudanaka. People from all over fl ocked to witness this amazing spectacle. Today some 200 macaques enjoy a daily soak, grooming each other but mostly sitting in the warm waters, whiling away their physical and mental tension.
It is fortunate that this stunning attraction has not been turned into a tourist circus. There is no access road, only a footpath and a good 2km walk. The slight uphill trek could just about put off mass tourist visits. The macaques are left alone to go about their daily business as they have been doing well before 1997. Human visitors are tolerated to observe and enjoy as the macaques weave through their evolutionary primate cousins totally oblivious of their presence.
We often revel in any animal that acts in an almost human behaviour. It sparks off some kind of connection. We are misled to believe that these animals can be petted or perform tricks at our beck and call. Attempting to pet wild animals, even the smallest cuddliest-looking ones can trigger off rather nasty behaviour. Don't feed them or pester them. It disturbs their natural habitat. They must depend on foraging for their food, themselves. They do not respond to: "Here, here, monkey, monkey."
Observe, enjoy the show and come away with some life-long memories of this unique group of macaques enjoying a good soak in an outside thermal spring surrounded by a stunning natural habitat.
I can relate to that. Earlier that day I was in my own hot spring with my own kind of people.
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