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Interesting Photo of the Day: Little Snow Monkey Enjoys the Hot Springs

Winter is harsh in Japan’s mountainous Jigokundani Monkey Park, with heavy snow covering the ground for more than one third of the year and temperatures often plummeting below -15 °C. Why then, of all places, would a large population of Japanese Macaques—that is, snow monkeys—choose to make their home there in “Hell’s Valley,” where cliffs are dangerously steep and steam rises from ominous cracks in the frozen ground? Surprisingly, it’s the prospect of a warm bath in Jigokundani’s hot springs that draws them in. Pure enjoyment is evident on this young macaque’s face as he soaks away the winter chill:

Little snow monkey thoroughly enjoys hot spring bath (via Imgur, click to see full size)

This photo was taken by Ben Torode, a photographer from Tokyo who has created something of a franchise with photos of his kitten Daisy, who is widely known as “the cutest kitten in the world.” Torode has also captured many stunning photographs of snow monkeys bathing and grooming in the Jigokundani hot springs. He described the little monkey in this photo as being “down in the dumps” and shivering before it slid into the hot springs, but said that the juvenile’s attitude improved dramatically when it entered the water.

“It seemed the little monkey was just starting to enjoy some time away from its mother, but would often run out of the bath to check where she was,” Torode said.

The sheer delight that is so evident in this little monkey’s face has revived discussion about whether we’ve overestimated the differences between humans and non-human primates. While Torode thinks that this little monkey was less excited about the warm water as it was about the seed it had hidden in its mouth, Torode certainly believes that humans and monkeys are similar.

“My favorite images would have to be the ones that show intense preening,” he said, “because it reveals how many traits these monkeys share with humans.”

Though high concentrations of bacteria in the hot spring pools bar swimming to humans, many tourists stop by the pools anyway to watch the monkeys, and many are able to peacefully get within two feet without causing trouble.

However, according to Torode, photographers get the best view.

“You are not supposed to stare at them too long with your naked eyes because they take it as a sign of aggression,” he said, “but they don’t mind lenses.”

[via PictureCorrect Photography Tips]

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