Conservation of the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey on the Basis of Research and Education

Shennongjia National Park
Published: 24 July 2020
Last edited: 24 July 2020
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Summary

For effective protection of the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey and other species, Shennongjia National Park has taken measures of conservation on the basis of research and education. By providing food in the food-scarce winter, the Park attracted a group of monkeys for habituation-based research. The Park built a series of open research platforms (Shennongjia Golden Snub-nosed Monkey Field Research Base of the State Administration of Forestry, etc.), provided sufficient logistical and financial support, and became well-known to the academic community for the research conducted on the park species in cooperation with universities and research institutions. The research achievements have been used for popular science education to promote conservation of the rare and endangered species. The Park built exhibition centers to display images, materials, popular science articles and live video of the species so that the general visitors can see the monkeys without disturbing them. 

Classifications

Region
East Asia
Scale of implementation
Local
National
Subnational
Ecosystem
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
River, stream
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Tundra or montane grassland
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Theme
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Protected area governance
Protected area management planning
Science and research
Species management
World Heritage
Challenges
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Invasive species
Inefficient management of financial resources
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Sustainable development goals
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge

Location

Shennongjia, Hubei, People's Republic of China

Challenges

1. The lack of professional research staff.
2. The difficulties in tracking and conducting field survey on the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey.
3. The winter in Shennongjia is cold and long, and the habitat is covered by snow for a long time, causing difficulties in finding food to wild animals including the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey. Artificial food replenishment effectively reduces starvation in winter.
4. Research on key factors such as survival restrictions, evaluation on status quo of the habitat, nutrition, genetic diversity needed to be improved.
5. Low awareness of the general public on the species and its conservation. Some locals didn't even know the existence of such a rare and endangered species. Road construction caused fragmentation of its habitat. Human activites such as logging, grazing, herbal medicine collection, poaching and tourism threatened the species and its habitat. 

Beneficiaries

  • Shennongjia National Park;
  • Science Research Institute of Shennongjia National Park;
  • Shennongjia Man and the Biosphere Reserve;
  • Shennongjia UNESCO Global Geopark;
  • Hubei Shennongjia World Heritage Natural Site

How do the building blocks interact?

Habituation-based research solved the bottleneck problem related to the research on the species. Regarding the field research, there are many difficulties in tracking, conducting identification, nondestructive sampling, non-interruptive observation, etc. A monkey group that is indifferent to human disturbance and can be closely observed is undoubtedly an ideal object for research. The successful habituation perfectly solved the problems and laid the foundation for a research platform. Good research not only attracts attention of higher authorities and the public, bring more financial support for conservation, but also provides good material for popular science education and public awareness.

As an endemic species of China, the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey is 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.

Impacts

The composition and the academic level of the research team as well as its research methods and technology have been improved. This have drawn more attention from provincial and national authorities and won more preferential policies and financial support. Every year more than 5,000 university students and researchers visit the Research Base for practice or research, and the Base is open to study-tour groups of school students and volunteers. The species was listed in the Top 10 Animals in the News in 2009, many photos have won domestic and international photography awards, famous documentaries including Born in ChinaWild China, and Seven Planets, One World, etc. have taken shots in Shennongjia, and dozens of national media companies have released stories of the species. It has become a celebrity and Shennongjia is now taking the lead in the popular science education on the species. The research achievements and awareness promotion have greatly helped with proper conservation of the species: the locals are well aware of the importance of the species and human activities threatening the habitat greatly reduced, many locals and visitors have become volunteers and donations have been received for its conservation. The population of the species (about 800 in 2005) has increased to 1,471 and the area of its habitat (143 square kilometers) has expanded to 354 square kilometers.

Story

Before 2005, the nature reserve was very weak in science research and only capable of preliminary research in cooperation with few institutions and universities. Meanwhile the research for wildlife conservation had developed vigorously in Chinese nature reserves and many success stories had been published. Although Shennongjia is endowed with abundant resources, it remained silent and unknown to the public. Under such conditions, Mr. Liao Mingyao, the Director General of the Administration of Shennongjia National Nature Reserve (integrated into Shennongjia National Park in 2015) decided to do more, with the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey as the breakthrough.   

The Director General and his team consulted experts in research institutions and universities, and visited conservation and research organizations in Sichuan, Yunnan and Shaanxi to learn their experience. When he returned, he made a prime but bold decision: establish a special team to track and observe the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey around the clock to get first-hand data of the species. The decision turned out to be wise and far-sighted. As an endemic species of China, the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey is 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.

In April 2005, the new team started on the long and difficult “monkey-tracking” road with heavy equipment and supplies. The mountain paths were dangerously steep, the weather was changeable, the primitive forest was dense, and the alert monkeys escaped as soon as they saw a human… There were too many difficulties. 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. This method is called habituation-based research.

In 2019, the Administration provided CNY 3 millions (about USD 428.600) to support the field work by top research teams in China, and established a foundation for the conservation of this species and its habitat, which has received donations of CNY 4 million (about USD 571.000).

Contributed by

Jinxin Chen Administration of Shennongjia National Park

Other contributors

Administration of Shennongjia National Park
Administration of Shennongjia National Park
Administration of Shennongjia National Park