, KUNMING, Sep 18 – A nature reserve for endangered black snub-nosed monkeys in southwestern China is facing a dilemma from surging numbers of visitors, a trend which is bringing welcome profile to the inhabitants but also threats to the elusive creatures.
The Baima Snow Mountain National Nature Reserve, home to around 1,200 black snub-nosed monkeys, or rhinopithecus bieti, in Weixi County of Yunnan Province, has seen a tourism boom in recent years.
“We used to have only two to three visitors a day,” Zhongtai Tsering, head of the reserve, told Xinhua. “But now we have more than 30 on a daily basis.”
Tourists from both China and abroad are coming to observe the white-faced and red-lipped animals, of which there are thought to be less than 2,500 still alive. They are dubbed one of the country’s national treasures alongside the Giant Panda.
Zhongtai Tsering is glad to see the increasing number of tourists, saying, “The booming tourism has helped to ensure more people know about the rare monkeys, which will be helpful to our protection work.”
However, the zoologist also voiced his concern over visitors’ impact on the monkeys, who are now less afraid of the two-footed intruders.
“We have been following and observing a group of 90 black snub-nosed monkeys, feeding them regularly and giving tourists access to their habitat,” he said. “Obviously, the group is under greater risk of contagion from human diseases, including catching a cold or suffering from diarrhoea.”
“But personally I believe it is still worthwhile to prompt the protection of the whole species by exposing a small number of them to tourists,” he added.