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Mountain of the Apes


Text and photographs by Chun Shi

About 700 Guizhou snub-nosed monkeys, also known as gray golden-hair monkeys, call Mount Fanjing, the main peak of Guizhou Province’s Wuling Mountains, home. The primate, characterized by gray and brown fur, a light purple or blue face, plump lips, upturned nostrils, large round eyes, and a long tail, is under Chinese state-class protection. Those lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them usually notice the agile creatures jumping from tree to tree. Compared with China’s other two endemic golden monkey species, Sichuan and Yunnan snub-nosed, Guizhou’s species suffers from fewer numbers, more impending threats, and a narrower distribution range. The animal is considered one of the most endangered species on earth, inspiring its nickname, “the only child of the world.”

In 1903, British missionary Oldfield Thomas discovered some fur of a never-before-seen Chinese monkey, and he named the animal Rhinopithecus brelichi. Over the next century, zoologists frequently studied Mount Fanjing in hopes of learning more about the elusive animal. However, until last year, not much was known about the rare monkey. How do they live in the wild? How is their social organization? What impact has their unique habitat on Mount Fanjing made on their behavior?

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