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Chasing monkeys in Yakushima

Pledged: 1,957,240 JPY
Target Amount: 1,500,000 JPY
130 %
Days left
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Reached the funding target!


Thanks to the supports of unexpectedly large number of people, we have reached our initial goal (1.5 million JPY) in only 18 days. It has been amazing to see the list of the contributors became longer and longer day by day, some are of course the members of our census team, but the names of many others are totally unfamiliar to me. Huge thanks to all who helped us!

Now we have secured enough fund to buy one new car, but it remains the minimum that we really need. All our three cars are old and we would like to replace two (or if possible all three) of them this time.
Actually, during my (Hanya's) visit to Yakushima at the end of March, one of the car did not move due to an engine trouble, so I have decided to scrap it.

Your further support would be highly appreciated, to reach our second goal of 2.5 million JPY!

Comment from academist staff

Img 6854

miho otsuka

Japanese macaques in Yakushima, UNESCO World Natural Heritage site

Yakushima is an island in southern Japan, which is about 500km2 in area. It has been designated as one of Japan's UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites due to its biological diversity along the elevational gradient up to 1936m. The natural vertical change of vegetation is preserved in this island as seen in the coastal broad-leaved evergreen forest, mid-altitude coniferous forest of thousands-year-old magnificent sugi cedars, and the summit bamboo grasslands. Our research group aims to understand the various organisms in this island, in particular Japanese macaques and continue conducting our annual census every summer.

We established our census team in 1989. Yakushima is a well-known long-term study site among the primatology community. In the western lowland forest, human disturbance is minimal and provides an opportunity to witness Japanese macaques in their natural habitat. The monkeys here are without any artificial provisioning, large-scale logging, and do not depend on crops. Many researchers have recorded their behavior since birth to death since the 1970s in order to study the ecology of Japanese macaques. On the other hand, in other areas of Yakushima, macaques have been considered pest animals due to crop raiding of oranges in plantations near local villages. Several researchers organized long-term research to help solve the conflict between people and macaques in Yakushima. They established our census team with the aim of offering data on the island-wide distribution of macaques. This was the beginning of our census team.


Island-wide census of Japanese macaques

In 1989, Japanese macaques were actively studied only in the western lowland forest where there were no farms. Our census team attempted to clarify their distribution near farming villages, which was indispensable for the effective management of crop-raiding macaques.

It is not easy to conduct a large-scale census over mountainous landscape such as in Yakushima. Through exploration of suitable methodologies for the initial years, we have established a unique census method combining a large number of fixed-point observers, who are mostly inexperienced students and a small number of experienced group followers.

We completed an island-wide census in 1997. From there onward, we established another long-term study site in the highland coniferous forest of around 1,000m above sea level. Two decades since then, we are now clarifying interesting contrasts between the social dynamics of the lowland and the highland macaques. In particular, we are finding that there are distinct social dynamics which are unique to the lowland and highland groups.


Macaques' social dynamics are contrasting between the lowland and the highland

In the lowland, group fission and extinction are frequent, and their home range shifts considerably only within a few years span of time. In contrast, in the highlands, group distribution is quite stable, and we can still find the same groups which have been observed since 20 years ago.

Habitat differences point to the driving force of these contrasts. In the rich lowland with high fruit production, macaque groups live under severe competition, and small groups go extinct one by one. On the other hand, in the fruit-poor highland, females in both large and small groups equally give birth and maintain their groups.

These contrasting social dynamics along with the elevation gradient could not have been clarified without the long-term observation of our census team. Japanese macaques are the longest-living wildlife in Japan living more than 20 years. In order to understand their ecology to a greater extent, we would like to continue our endeavors in providing an annual census.


Accumulation of three decade data with more than 1500 people

Now our census has turned its 30th year anniversary, and the total number of participants has exceeded 1,500 people. Each year, several dozens of voluntary participants, mostly undergraduate students, join in the census and collect data with researchers. In this census, we live in a camp for one week without any tap water, electricity, and gas supply. Each participant has the opportunity to learn about working in a team project with others from different universities, academic levels, and from a variety of academic disciplines due to the diversity of each participant’s background. The experiences they have had in our census are as valuable as the data accumulated for the past three decades.

The alumni of our census team include not only ecologists working at universities or institutions, but also government officials, high school teachers, business people, those working for conservation NGOs, veterinarians, an owner of a liquor shop, a painter, etc. We would like to continue our census which has been a great opportunity for people in Japan to learn about how fantastic nature is and further expose younger generations to its wonders.


Aim of the crowd-funding

We would like to continue our census to clarify the population and social dynamics of Japanese macaques and also the long-term changes in their habitat in the highland od Yakushima. Currently, we are expanding our study subjects to other organisms, including fruiting trees, sika deer, and hematophagous (blood-feeding) leeches.

We have decided that crowd-funding is a potential valuable source to allow our research to continue. What is most urgently needed at this time is the purchase of research vehicles. Since reaching our study site requires driving through non-pavement logging roads, 4WD cars are indispensable for transporting participants and camping gear to the camp. Currently, there is only one 4WD car available for rent in Yakushima. However, due to large scale of the annual census this is logistically inadequate to meet our deadlines. Therefore we also use three cars owned personally by some of the participants, but these vehicles were made in the 1990s and are becoming problematic to be used reliably. And due to their age, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pass the bi-annual vehicle inspection required by Japanese regulation coming next July 2019.

We have collected fees from the participants to cover food, insurance, and maintenance costs of the cars. However, despite our efforts it is still not enough to purchase 4WD vehicles necessary for our research. Unlike other research equipment, such as walkie-talkies and GPS, grants from universities highly limit our ability to purchase research vehicles. Through your support, this crowd funding will be spent for the purchase of (a) new 4WD car(s), which enables us to continue the census for decades to come!


Shin-ichi Yoshihiro, the leader of this census, established the team in 1989 and led the initial period. He has studied the Japanese macaques in the snowy Shiga Heights, and he was attracted to Yakushima due to the macaques living in a high mountain habitat and also due to the island representing the southern limit of their distribution. Thanks to the hundreds of students who joined in this census, the dream to clarify the island-wide distribution in Yakushima, has come true. Goro Hanya, the secretary general of the team, has pushed the team up to the next stage from the island-wide census. In 1995, as an undergraduate student at Kyoto University, he succeeded the census from Yoshihiro who could not join in that year due to heart surgery. Hanya conducted the census with many other young students. After that, as a graduate student, he conducted a two-year fieldwork project in the highlands of Yakushima, in which he brought to light the basic ecology of Japanese macaques through detailed behavioral observation. After more than 20 years, now as a faculty of Kyoto University, he still continues the annual census with young students, who are the same age as him when he succeeded the census from Yoshihiro.


Project timeline

Date Plans
March 2019 Start crowd-funding
May 2019 End crowd-funding
July 2019 Purchase car(s)
August 2019 Bring the car(s) to Yakushima, conduct census
September 2019 Make report of the census 2019
After 2020 Conduct the census every summer
  1. ヤクザル調査隊では、さまざまなテーマについて同時に調査に取り組んでおり、それぞれのテーマについて研究成果がまとまった時点で、随時論文として発表しています。今年度から来年度にかけては、ヒルが吸血する哺乳動物種に関しての研究や、シカの食性と分布に関する論文をまとめる予定でいます。その次には、サルの群れの行動圏の過去20年間の変化、サルの出産率の年変動と果実の豊作不作との関連、森林伐採後の森林の植生・果実生産量・サルによる土地利用パターンの変化などを、今後10年以内に論文として公表していきたいと思っています。

Pledge Rewards

1,000 JPY (Tax not included)
Featured: Acknowledged in the report.

We will send the PDF version of the annual report after the census in August 2019.

28 supporters are supporting with this reward. (Non quantity limit)

3,000 JPY (Tax not included)
Featured: Photos of the Yakushima forest, Japanese macaques, and our census (20 images)

We will send electronic version of 20 images of pictures taken during the census, including beautiful forest, Japanese macaques, and struggling students!

59 supporters are supporting with this reward. (Non quantity limit)

5,000 JPY (Tax not included)
Featured: Acknowledged in the website

We will acknowledge your name in our website (

42 supporters are supporting with this reward. (Non quantity limit)

10,000 JPY (Tax not included)
Featured: Science café (maximum two persons)

Members of our census team, scattered in many places of Japan, will give talks at a science café in Inuyama, Kyoto, Tokyo (twice), Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Sapporo, and Hamamatsu). This event is also open to the alumni of the census, you can enjoy talking with the census participants. Details will be announced at our website ( Transportation expenses are not included.

32 supporters are supporting with this reward. (Non quantity limit)

30,000 JPY (Tax not included)
Featured: Signed book by author(s)

One of the following three books signed by the author(s) will be delivered to you! All books are in Japanese. Please note that this reward is shipped to those who have addresses in Japan. “Monkeys and Yakushima” by Goro Hanya and Hajime Matsubara “Crows and Kyoto” by Hajime Matsubara “Following Yakushima Macaques” by Juichi Yamagiwa

14 supporters are supporting with this reward. (Non quantity limit)

50,000 JPY (Tax not included)
Featured: Acknowledged in a paper

Your name is acknowledged in a paper using data collected during the census.

3 supporters are supporting with this reward. (Non quantity limit)

300,000 JPY (Tax not included)
Featured: Guided tour in Yakushima

After the census in 2019, for three days at the beginning of September, we will guide you in Yakushima using the car purchased by your support. You can watch Japanese macaques in the western lowland, trek coniferous forest in the study site, talk with the participants of the census, and join in the open lecture for local people. Maximum three persons can be accompanied. If the period does not fit with your schedule, we will suggest an alternative schedule. Travel expenses and accommodation are not included.

1 supporters are supporting with this reward. (Non quantity limit)

Supporters will be charged the funding amount only if the project reaches the funding goal (JPY 1,500,000) before 2019年05月28日 19時00分 (JST: GMT+9).
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1,000 JPY (tax excluded)


28 supporters back
(Non quantity limit)

3,000 JPY (tax excluded)



59 supporters back
(Non quantity limit)

5,000 JPY (tax excluded)



42 supporters back
(Non quantity limit)

10,000 JPY (tax excluded)



32 supporters back
(Non quantity limit)

30,000 JPY (tax excluded)



14 supporters back
(Non quantity limit)

50,000 JPY (tax excluded)



3 supporters back
(Non quantity limit)

300,000 JPY (tax excluded)



1 supporters back
(Non quantity limit)

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