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Reserve's Rare Monkeys Double in 15 Years
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The number of endangered golden snub-nosed monkeys, unique to China, in one nature reserve in the central province of Hubei more than doubled over the past 15 years, Xinhua News Agency reported today.


Zhong Ran, deputy director of Shennongjia Natural Reserve Administration said the population had risen from 501 to over 1,200 in that time and now live in a 10,000-hectare special zone where no visitors apart from researchers and forest guards are allowed.


A long-term research program aiming to provide information to help protect the monkeys was launched in April, said Zhong, and is set to run for between five and eight years.


Zhong credited the increasing numbers largely to a shift in the area's development model in the 1990s, when it became a UNESCO biosphere reserve. At that time, forest coverage had been cut to only 63.5 percent.


From the 1960s, Shennongjia had contributed timber from over 100,000 cubic meters per year, during which time the local ecology was seriously damaged and numbers of wild animals fell.




The golden snub-nosed monkey, Rhinopithecus roxellana, is under top state protection, considered a "state treasure" along with the giant panda.


All three of its subspecies are classified as "vulnerable" on the World Conservation Unions' Red List, meaning it is considered to face a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term due to human-induced habitat loss and degradation.


According to recent surveys, only 10,000 to 15,000 survive in the wild, with the largest populations in southwest China's Sichuan Province.


(Xinhua News Agency August 9, 2005)

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