We've all seen those photos of the cute Japanese Snow Monkeys sitting in the hot spring surrounding by snow, looking like the rich and lazy skiers lounging about in hot tubs after a day on the slopes and too many beers at the bar.
I had presumed that this was an ancient behaviour of these monkeys who long ago learnt to keep warm this way during the long, harsh Japanese winter. Not so. Turns out nothing could be further from the truth. They learned it some 40-50 years ago by watching people sitting in the springs (these very same rich loafers I suppose)!
In 1963 Mukubili, a rather visionary troupe leader as it turns out, mimicked some human behaviour and changed the lot of her troupe to this very day. The rest of her troupe copied her behaviour, and the rest as they say is history. Her descendants still enjoy their hot spring hot tubs, and because of their fame humans bring them food every day. The individuals in this troupe are now twice the size of their near neighbours who still have to forage for their food rather than be fed by people who like to take photos of the hot tub loungers.
I stumbled on this rather interesting fact whilst watching the documentary Snow Monkeys: Who's Hot and Who's Not. It was actually shown on the ABC about six months ago and has been languishing about unwatched on our hard drive recorder, just waiting for a wintery Saturday evening, and a bored child with nothing else to do. Much like the young snow monkeys who have so much free time that they have learned to play with snowballs.