A re­serve in Yun­nan of­fers in­sights into a rare simian species’ lives — and hu­mans. and re­port from Diqing, Yun­nan.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE | TRAVEL -

Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise — and more likely to see black snub-nosed mon­keys in Yun­nan prov­ince’s Weixi county.

The county in the Diqing Ti­betan au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture hosts a na­tional park cre­ated to pro­tect the rare pri­mates, which vis­i­tors are more likely to spot soon af­ter sun­rise.

Guests dis­cover sac­ri­fic­ing some shut­eye is worth the eye­open­ing epipha­nies they may en­counter. Many ex­plain the ex­pe­ri­ence goes be­yond view­ing the crea­tures in the wild to con­se­quently chang­ing their world­views about their own habi­tats.

They hop aboard elec­tric carts and next hike up the moun­tain­side for 40 min­utes in the hope of see­ing the simi­ans, about 50 of which dwell in the park’s snowy moun­tains.

Shangri-La is of­ten en­vi­sioned as a paradise — for hu­mans. It is, in­deed, also an Eden for other pri­mates, a mon­key kingdom in the truest sense.

This is their do­main, set aside for them to rule.

The mon­keys are the an­i­mal species most eas­ily viewed clos­est to the park’s en­trance be­cause the area serves as their pri­mary for­ag­ing grounds. For­tu­nate vis­i­tors watch them zip up and down trees on their mis­sion to find food.

They’re also fed by peo­ple like Yu Lizhong, one of 28 rangers from the neigh­bor­ing vil­lages who pa­trol the Shangri-La Na­tional Park of Yun­nan Snub­nosed Mon­keys.

“The mon­keys feast on a ‘ban­quet’ break­fast around 9 am and then take long naps out of vis­i­tors’ sight,” Yu says.

Con­se­quently, the park closes at noon.

Yu gets up at 5 am to start his pa­trols to track the mon­keys and some­times re­turns at 8 pm.

Only two of the mon­key’s daily meals are de­liv­ered, so they spend their wak­ing hours scour­ing the land­scape for leaves, bam­boo and fruit. Vis­i­tors are for­bid­den from feed­ing them.

“We need to keep them wild,” Yu says. “Af­ter all, they’re not in a zoo.” The pri­mates are pop­u­lar among peo­ple be­cause of their strik­ing fea­tures — hu­man­like faces with bright red lips.

French mis­sion­ar­ies first recorded the species’ ex­is­tence in the 1890s.

Black snub-nosed mon­keys, or Yun­nan snub-nosed mon­keys, were con­sid­ered ex­tinct in China un­til a Chi­nese ex­pe­di­tion en­coun­tered them in the wild in the 1960s.

Even the most lib­eral es­ti­mate by The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy’s pri­mate ex­pert Long Yongcheng puts the pop­u­la­tion around 3,500. Oth­ers project fewer than 2,000.

Most oc­cupy Yun­nan’s northwest.

Over 1,000 dwell in Weixi’s 330square-kilo­me­ter park, ac­cord­ing to its statistics, mak­ing it the coun­try’s largest re­serve for the species.

Yu also looks out for fires and hunts for poach­ers.

The ranger hasn’t seen poach­ers face-to-face in over a decade on the job — but he has found am­mu­ni­tion cas­ings.

“Vil­lagers have pro­tected the mon­keys since I was a child,” says Yu, who’s in his 50s.

“But we have to pro­tect them from out­siders.”

The park re­ceived about 20,000 vis­i­tors last year, ad­min­is­tra­tor He Liqing says.

“We can’t al­low un­fet­tered tourism,” he says.

“The pri­or­i­ties re­main to pro­tect the mon­keys and con­duct re­search.”

That said, some out­siders come specif­i­cally to help, rather than harm.

Li Jie is one of two vol­un­teers work­ing in the park for a month.

The 24-year-old He­nan prov­ince na­tive was cy­cling through Yun­nan when he was en­ticed by a vol­un­teer project by the en­vi­ron­men­tal NGO Green River.

“I couldn’t con­tinue the trip af­ter see­ing so many adorable an­i­mals,” Li says.

“They live far from where I do. But every species is im­por­tant to our greater ecosys­tem and will ul­ti­mately af­fect my life in ways like the butterfly ef­fect. A sad truth is many other species that don’t have strik­ing fa­cial fea­tures like black snub-nosed mon­keys went ex­tinct be­fore the pub­lic no­ticed.”

His rev­e­la­tion shows how many vis­i­tors ex­pe­ri­ence un­ex­pected philo­soph­i­cal re­al­iza­tions in the wilder­ness that they take home — that is, those be­yond re­in­forc­ing the virtues of ris­ing early.

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Top and above: Yun­nan snub-nosed mon­keys are pop­u­lar among peo­ple be­cause of their hu­man­like faces with bright red lips.

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