Weather Slows Monkey Business

They're used to living in the mountains and ice of Japan. But now hundreds of snow monkeys are learning how to adapt to an unrelenting South Texas heat wave.

You might expect to see these monkeys in Australia or Africa, but at the Snow Monkey Sanctuary in South Texas, more than 400 Japanese monkeys—which would normally be living in mountains and snow—are trying to live with high temperatures.

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"These guys are survivors," says caretaker Lou Griffin. "These guys have adapted to the horrendous quality of South Texas life."

Griffin helps take care of the monkeys—feeding them and providing medical care—but she lets them live in the wild and learn how to survive.

These are literally called Japanese snow monkeys, but their adaptation to the extreme cold has been translated to the extreme heat. You can walk in the snow and not get frostbite. But you can also walk in the sand when it's 130 degrees and not burn your toes.

"This is one of the ways the Japanese snow monkeys have adapted to living in South Texas," Griffin says. "In Japan, they would use water to stay warm. Here in South Texas, they use the water to cool off."

Water is a valuable resource, and the monkeys spend their days in the shade of trees.

"They're smarter than we are," Griffin says. "They come out early in the morning and late in the evening."

Griffin says every year some monkeys die because of the heat. But it's usually not this bad.

"This is probably the worst year we've had in 10 years, because as you've seen, even though we have a swimming hole and we've got a well, we can't even keep it full because of the evaporation. So we're suffering like everybody in South Texas."

And like everybody in South Texas, they're looking for ways to survive. So far, their animal instincts are paying off.

Reported by Christina Huey
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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