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Yunnan monkey reserve faces tourism dilemma

The Baima Snow Mountain National Nature Reserve, home to around 1,200 black snub-nosed monkeys in Weixi County of Yunnan Province, has seen a tourism boom in recent years. A trend which is bringing welcome profit to the inhabitants but also threats to the elusive creatures. There are thought to be less than 2,500 still alive of the white-faced and red-lipped animals - one of China's national treasures alongside the Giant Panda.

The booming tourism helps on the one hand to ensure that more people know about the rare monkeys, which will be helpful to the protection work. On the other hand, the monkeys are under greater risk of contagion from human diseases, including catching a cold or suffering from diarrhea. Field researchers at the reserve are also afraid that close contact with humans may change the monkeys' behavior and endanger their habitat.

"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," said the zoologist Zhongtai Tsering.

Published: 26 September 2012

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