KUNMING, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- Chinese zoologists cautiously declared on Thursday that the rare Yunnan black snub-nosed monkey might have avoided extinction, but its population growth would require more extensive and persistent care by local communities.
Long Yongcheng, head of the Expert Group for Primate Protection of the China Zoological Society and China Chapter chief scientist of the US-based Nature Conservancy, said the population of the species, which is unique to China, had risen by 750 since 1994 to 2,500.
"Judging from its current growth and reproduction, I think the species will not die out," he said.
|Black snub-nosed monkeys are pictured in the Baima Snow Mountain|
State Nature Reserve in Weixi, southwest China's Yunnan Province,
Oct. 22, 2009. (Xinhua/Lin Yiguang)
In the mid 1990s, Long was among a group of Chinese zoologists who warned that emergency measures were needed to save the species after rampant logging in the mountains of southwestern Yunnan destroyed their habitats.
Dubbed a "national treasure" on a par with the giant panda, the Yunnan black snub-nosed monkey is scattered in a narrow swath of 2,000 square kilometers between the Jinsha and Lansang rivers. The area forms a significant ecological shelter zone in Asia and has a direct bearing on the ecology of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and the Lancang-Mekong River Basin.
To protect the monkey's habitat, the government banned logging in the Jinsha River Valley in 1998 and launched a project in 2000 to encourage farmers to convert cultivated land into forest.
"That has brought a favorable turn for the species, because without a well-protected habitat, it would be impossible for us to truly improve the living environment of the animal," said Zhong Mingchuan, deputy director of the Wild Life Protection Office of the Yunnan Forestry Bureau.
A series of nature reserves with a total area of 640,000 hectares have been created according to the geographical distribution of the species.
Over the past two years, the Chinese government had invested more than 200 million yuan (29.5 million U.S. dollars) annually to facilitate the growth of natural forests in their major habitats such as Deqin, Weixi, Yulong and Lanping, Zhong said.
In Diqing Baima Snow Mountain National Reserve alone, zoologists have spotted 1,500 Yunnan black rub-nosed monkeys in eight populations, up 300 since 2004. ` Zhao Weidong, chief engineer of the Baima reserve, said the monkey, with an average lifespan of 20 years, had a lower fertility rate than other tropical primates. Female adults could only give birth once every two years.
"The good news is that our monitoring showed about half of local black snub-nosed monkey babies will survive as compared to only 30 percent a few years ago," said Zhao.
Zhao and his colleagues also found that the expanding habitats had enriched the monkey's diet. "With more diversified food and less poaching, I am sure the species will multiply fast," said Zhao.
In the National Park for Yunnan Black Snub-nosed Monkeys in Diqing, which opened to tourists last October, tourists can see the primate close up.
Long said more members of the public should be mobilized to take good care of the monkey's habitats.