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1st female boss monkey emerges at southwest Japan zoo

Yakei, who has become the first female boss of a monkey troop at Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden, is seen at the facility in the city of Oita on July 30, 2021. (Mainichi/Nao Ishii)

OITA -- A local zoo in this southwest Japan city has announced that a female monkey has become the leader of a troop for the first time in the facility's decades-long history.

    Yakei, a 9-year-old female, has become the leader of the "Group B" troop comprising 677 macaques at Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden in the city of Oita. The other troop, Group C, is made up of 362 simians.

    It is the first time for the zoo -- where visitors can see wild Japanese monkeys up close -- to observe an alpha female since its opening in 1953.

    According to the zoo's announcement on July 30, Yakei started to exhibit behavior similar to that of males, such as walking with her tail up, in around April. On June 26, she had a fight with Nanchu, a male presumed to be 31 who ruled Group B at the time, and beat him. Zookeepers had since observed the two for a month, and noticed that the male boss began to escape from Yakei out of fear of her. The zoo accordingly recognized Yakei as the most powerful in Group B.

    Tadatoshi Shimomura, a 47-year-old staffer at the zoo, commented, "Normally, female monkeys do not stand up against males. I've no idea why she became No. 1. The world of macaques may be changing."

    In regard to a female becoming the boss of a monkey troop, an official at the Japan Monkey Centre in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, said, "I believe it's a rare case."

    (Japanese original by Nao Ishii, Oita Bureau)

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