Oldest snow monkey in North America dies at Minnesota Zoo

RIP Nikko.
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The oldest monkey of its kind on our entire continent has died at the Minnesota Zoo.

"We’re sad to announce that the beloved snow monkey, Nikko, has passed away," the Minnesota Zoo said in a Facebook post on Monday.

Nikko celebrated his 34th birthday earlier this fall, the post says, which made him the oldest snow monkey in North America.

The average life expectancy for male snow monkeys is 18 years, the zoo said in the post, though the zoo's website says the monkeys can live to be 30. 

Zoo officials estimate that Nikko had lived longer than 99.5 percent of other known male snow monkeys.

"Nikko’s age is a true testament to the amazing care we provide our animals here at the Minnesota Zoo. Nikko was a very special animal and it has been a tough few days for our staff," the post says.

The zoo did not provide any details about Nikko's cause of death.

Snow monkeys in the wild

Japanese macaques (aka snow monkeys) are native to three of Japan’s four main islands, the Minnesota Zoo says. They can be found anywhere from the sub-tropical lowlands to the snowy sub-alpine regions.

Snow monkeys are very social and live in groups of 10-70 in the wild. They spend a large part of their day foraging, stashing everything from fruit to tree bark in their cheek pouches to eat later.

In general, the species isn't in serious decline, the zoo says, but some populations are under threat due to loss of habitat and their perception as agricultural pests. Snow monkeys have been officially protected from hunting in Japan since 1947.

In winter they like to keep warm by soaking in volcanic hot springs. A National Geographic photographer captured some adorable footage of them doing just that:

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