Macaques get first-ever alpha female in Japanese reserve

Macaques at a Japanese nature reserve have the first alpha female in 70-years, and she fought her mother for the position!

Japanese macaques in cherry blossom
(Image credit: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images)

Macaques in a Japanese nature reserve have their first alpha female. The news is not only a win for females of all species but also a highly unusual phenomenon. 

For most people, when they think of the stunning country, they consider ancient culture, Japanese cherry blossom in full bloom, delicious food and beautiful landscapes. However, Japan is also home to a population of approximately 100,000 wild Japanese macaques.

As well as this, there are vital nature reserves like Takasakiyama natural zoological garden in Oita city, where the animals are able to roam freely.

Takasakiyama has hit the headlines of late owing to one ambitious nine-year-old female, called Yakei. The female macaque has become the head honcho of a troop made up of 677 Japanese macaque monkeys.


The ambitious macaque's rise to the top is an incredibly unusual phenomenon according to the Guardian. In cracking the glass ceiling in her community, she's inadvertently become a feminist icon. 

Sadly, however, there was violence en route to being an alpha. Yakei beat up not only male macaques but also her own mother in the process of becoming the big boss.

Staff at the reserve, on the island of Kyushu in Japan, have been observing the shift in power since April 2021 and have been amazed by the new boss in town.

You might wonder, how the heck do human wardens know who's in charge in a troop of monkeys? Seemingly it all comes down to something we can all identify with—fighting over snacks.

Macaque alpha female

(Image credit: Philippe Clément/Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Using the "peanut test" they proved that when the nutty treats were left out, Yakei was the first to dig in. This was a very clear signal that the troop finally had its own girl boss, and that this queen chows down before anyone else.

Satoshi Kimoto, a guide at the reserve, told the publication that the plot has thickened since the peanut test. "Since then, Yakei has been climbing trees and shaking them", he said. Adding that it's, "an expression of power and a very rare behavior in females."

Although it remains to be seen how long the young female will stay at the top, it's worth remembering the sage wisdom of Beyoncé, "who run the world? Girls."

Aoife Hanna


Aoife is Junior News Editor at woman&home.

She's an Irish journalist and writer with over 1500 bylines and a background in creative writing, comedy and TV production.

Formerly Aoife was a contributing writer at Bustle and her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica, EVOKE and her poetry features in the soon-to-be-published Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.

Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, hot yoga studio, lifting heavy weights or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.