The Yunnan monkey reserve in China is seeing an increase in the number of tourists, which environmentalists say could harm the monkeys.
The reserve is home to black snub-nosed monkeys, which are very rare. It is believed that there are less than 2,500 of them left in the wild.
The reserve in south western China had been set up to increase the number of monkeys after their numbers declined due to expanding human population. However, as the number of tourists to the reserve is increasing, authorities are worried that the monkeys could suffer from the increase in human contact. The reserve is located in the Baima Snow Mountain National Nature Reserve, which is home to around 1,200 black snub-nosed monkeys, rhinopithecus bieti.
Speaking to Xinhua news, Zhongtai Tsering, head of the reserve, reportedly said that tourist numbers had increased from one to three per day to more than 30 per day. Tourists from both China and abroad are coming to observe the white-faced and red-lipped animals. Even though the increase in tourism is helpful for the protection of the monkeys, zoologists are worried that humans could pass on diseases to the monkeys, which are now accustomed to humans. There are also fears that close encounters with humans could alter monkeys’ behaviour and also endanger the environment in which they live.
Tsering said, ‘We have been following and observing a group of 90 black snub-nosed monkeys, feeding them regularly and giving tourists access to their habitat. 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.’