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North America's oldest snow monkey celebrates birthday at Minnesota Zoo

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The Minnesota Zoo celebrates a special birthday Tuesday – Nikko, now 31, is the oldest snow monkey in North America.

The zoo invites the public to a special party at 9 a.m. when Nikko's keepers plan to give him presents (they call them "enrichments"). From the zoo's Facebook page:

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Nikko has been at the Minnesota Zoo about 13 years. Check out a zoo video above from last year, when Nikko celebrated the big 3-0.

Zoo spokesman Tom Ness told the Associated Press that Nikko is an easy-going fellow and helps keep peace with other members of the troop (what they call a group of snow monkeys). Ness's theory is that the primate's laid-back personality may have helped him live nearly twice as long as a typical male.

Nikko is believed to be the world's third-oldest snow monkey – two others, in the Czech Republic, are 34, the Associated Press notes.

Snow monkeys are native to Japan, and in the wild they spend much of their time foraging. They love fruit, but will also eat plants, small animals, insects, farm crops, and during heavy snowfall, they often eat bark, according to the zoo. A couple other fun facts from the zoo:

  • In Japan, snow monkeys survive the cold with long, thick fur and an occasional dip in a volcanic hot spring.
  • Monkeys hold a special place in Japanese religion and folklore. They are considered messengers of the gods, and symbols of success and good forturne. The famous “hear, speak, and see no evil” monkeys are from a Japanese proverb.

Check out more info on snow monkeys on the zoo's page here.

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