This snow monkey makes an adorable iPhone thief

“The iPhone did not survive.”


Mike Wehner


Published Jul 7, 2014   Updated May 31, 2021, 12:14 am CDT

Smartphone thefts are a serious issue around the globe, but if every criminal who eyed up an iPhone was as cute as this, maybe humanity could let it slide. The photo above might look like something from a Pixar film, but that iPhone-toting monkey is indeed real, and was caught on camera by wildlife photographer Marsel van Oosten.

“Earlier this year we hosted two of our annual White & White Japan tours,” Van Oosten told the Daily Dot in an email. “One afternoon, our group was photographing the snow monkeys when a large bus with day tourists from a nearby ski resort arrived for a short stop. Suddenly we were surrounded by people shooting with iPads and iPhones—mostly selfies, of course.”

But a one-of-a-kind selfie wasn’t enough for one tourist, who wanted to get as close as possible to the animals. That decision, says Von Oosten, would end up costing her dearly.

“It was almost as if she was offering it to the macaque as a gift, so suddenly the macaque grabbed the iPhone from her hands and quickly moved away towards the middle of the hot spring—out of reach. The owner started screaming in agony, but the macaque was too fascinated by its new toy to notice.”

As you might imagine, the rest of the tour group found the event to be quite the spectacle. As Van Oosten notes, “The minutes that followed were downright hilarious—monkeys already resemble humans in so many ways, but when they’re holding an iPhone the similarities are almost scary. At some stage, it even managed to let the built-in flash go off. When the macaque decided to do some serious underwater testing, the owner of the phone almost fainted.”

But what of the device itself? If the phone was indeed retrieved, it might have yielded some truly stunning photographs, including one snapped by the monkey. Unfortunately, while the iPhone was indeed shielded in a protective case, it was not waterproof. As Van Oosten bluntly puts it, “The iPhone did not survive.”

That’s a real bummer for the owner, but the incident has produced a fantastic photograph that is gaining some serious recognition. The snapshot is currently a contender for the People’s Choice Award in the annual Wildlife Photographer Of The Year competition, held by the Natural History Museum. You can cast your vote for the photo from now until September 5th, or—if you’d rather stick the iPhone-loving primate on your wall—order a print of the image from Van Oosten’s website

Photo via Marsel van Oosten/National History Museum

Share this article
*First Published: Jul 7, 2014, 5:21 pm CDT