Top 5 features to become the boss

… of 153 Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) at the Affenberg Landskron.

Within my photographic work with Japanese macaques at the Austrian Research Center for Primatology to compile a catalogue of the monkeys’ behavior, so many exiting things could be illustrated. Some of them are certainly not only interesting for students or school classes.

Here are the top 5 characteristics a high rank monkey has to show to keep his position. You will be surprised how familiar some – but hopefully not all points sound.

1. Organizing the group

Whenever there is bad mood or a big fight in the group the boss (alpha-male) calls his homies (beta-males) to fix the problem. This call sounds quite similar to the one they show when they feel threatened. He is puckering up the lips and call “ho-ho-ho” hoping that his homies come running to help him resolving the conflict.

2. Mediating fights

Japanese macaques are a quite hotheaded species. Chasing and being chased is part of their daily routine. If the group cannot solve a conflict, the leader mediates these quarrels among his members, admonishes the one who has started the fight but never hurts any of his group members.


 3. Tending to the team

Tender loving care cultivates friendship and gains the support from the group. This so called grooming is very relaxing for the monkeys. Via grooming they are cleaning their fur of each other to preserve it from parasites, an interaction to maintain and establish social bonds. Everyone knows that important deals are discussed privately in pleasing situations.

4. Checking his outer appearance

The boss does not have to be the strongest or biggest monkey of the group. Networking, kindness and stress resistance are even more important. However, it does not cause any harm to control tooth quality or fur density every now and then. No, seriously! Actually it is quite surprising that Pauli, the alpha-male, spends a lot of time in front of the mirror without showing aggression…does he really recognizes himself?


5. Paying court to the ladies

During the mating season, all adult males have to make sure to be the father of at least one of the next year’s offspring. Hence, also the boss has to pay attention to the ladies who potentially give birth the next year. And the females who chose the alpha-male are protected and accompanied by him for several days.

So to become the boss is not easy. It’s a lot of bickering and grooming. But being the boss seems to be quite tempting. To be honest otherwise nobody would ever do it.


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