By Maria Klecko ’15
When Rachel Yenko-Martinka began her internship at Minnesota Zoo Foundation, she soon discovered that her job of analyzing and engaging with snow monkeys consisted of more than monkeying around with macaques.
“It started off as an internship, but it ended up as my favorite way to spend my days,” said Yenko-Martinka, a junior biology/pre-veterinary major from the Bronx.
Yenko-Martinka shared her experience studying behavioral patterns of Japanese snow macaques — also known as snow monkeys — with an attentive audience gathered for her presentation “Monkey Business” during Honors Week in March.
She said she examined ordinary activities such as grooming, playing, and resting of 20 macaques over 12 weeks. The purpose of the behavioral study was to determine if familial relations and grooming affect dominance. She also focused on the monkeys’ patterns of aggression and demonstrations of social hierarchy.
Yenko-Martinka said that most macaques were born at the zoo, but four wild macaques were imported from Japan. These new members disrupted the way of life for the other monkeys, so they reacted in a combative manner. The newly transported macaques became the lowest in the hierarchy.
“Watching the macaques interact was like watching humans half the time,” Yenko-Martinka said. “They feel jealousy, anger, friendship, and responsibility just like the rest of us.”
She noticed that the Japanese Snow Macaques were a matriarchal group, and explained that hierarchy is due to lineage. Older monkeys respected the newborn macaque because it was part of the alpha line.
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