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Monkeys chill out around bonfire at zoo in Japan

Yakushima macaques look contented as they warm themselves by a bonfire, at the Japan Monkey Centre in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, on Dec. 20, 2020. (Mainichi/Koji Hyodo)

INUYAMA, Aichi -- Yakushima macaques gathered around a bonfire to warm themselves up at the Japan Monkey Centre in this central Japan city on Dec. 20, apparently delighted by the heat from the flames amid the severe winter cold.

    The annual bonfire event started on Dec. 20 for some 140 Yakushima macaques -- a Japanese monkey subspecies -- and will also be held on Dec. 21, the winter solstice, and on every weekend and public holiday until Jan. 31 next year.

    The bonfire has been the zoo's wintry tradition for decades. After the powerful Typhoon Vera (Isewan Typhoon) hit Japan in 1959, monkey cubs at the zoo began to gather around a fire as staff burned driftwood and wooden debris to warm up their bodies. Other monkeys also eventually overcame their cautiousness and approached the fire. At the event, many macaques can be seen yawning while warming themselves.

    Sweet potatoes are baked in the bonfire, and monkeys are treated to the steaming hot feast at 2 p.m. The treats will continue to be dished out until Jan. 11.

    (Japanese original by Koji Hyodo, Nagoya Photo Group)

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