Habituation-based research

Published: 24 July 2020
Last edited: 24 July 2020

Before 2005, the nature reserve was only capable of preliminary research in cooperation with a few institutions and universities. The Golden Snub-nosed Monkey is a species endemic to China favored by researchers, and because it is rare, elegant and beautiful, it is very attractive to the public and the media. Good conservation and research of the species would definitely result in a chain reaction and a virtuous circle of conservation and science research. Based on the experience learned from other protected areas, the Director General decided to establish a special team to track and observe the species around the clock to get first-hand data for further research.

In 2005, the new team started on the long and difficult “monkey-tracking” road with heavy equipment and supplies. With over 400 days of effort, the team successfully reduced a group of monkeys’ natural vigilance against human: they were no longer afraid of the human followers and started to accept the food offered to them in the food-scarce winter. The harmony between human and the monkeys started to grow. Now, this group of monkeys has been indifferent to the activities of the research staff. Abundant data acquired has help researchers learn about the species. This method is called habituation-based research.






Collection of baseline and monitoring data and knowledge
Scale of implementation
Phase of solution

Enabling factors

1. A visionary leadship was empowered to decide research direction and budget.

2. Good experience of research were learned from other protected areas.

3. Sufficient funds were provided to support the learning travels and field work of the team. 

4. An enthusiastic research team guaranteed the effectiveness of the effort.

Lessons learned

1. At the beginning the research team needs to be small consisting of a few members.

2. The research team needs to be patient, keeping tracking the species and approaching it bit by bit.

3. Once the monkeys become familiar with the team members and find out that they mean no harm, they would start to accept the food given to them and become indifferent to the activities of the team members.

4. Fresh data helps the research team to learn more about the species.

5. Once the trust has been established between the monkeys and the researchers, the researchers can have very close contact with the monkeys (normally twice a day). However, before contacting the monkeys the researchers have to receive disinfection (by walking on a disinfecting mat and through an ultraviolet passage, etc.) and wear disinfected uniform during contact to avoid cross infection.

6. The Golden-snub Nosed Monkey is a very alert species. This habituation-based research method may apply to other wild animal species which are alert and difficult to get close to.