KUNMING, Aug.10 (Xinhua) -- The number of black snub-nosed monkeys, an endangered species of primate endemic to China, has increased from 2,000 to over 3,000 since the 1990s, Chinese scientists announced after a scientific expedition that began in July.
The monkeys, known in China as Yunnan golden hair monkeys, are among the world's most endangered primates. They live in mountainous forests in southwest China's Yunnan Province and Tibet Autonomous Region.
Of the 18 groups scattered throughout the mountains, most live in the Baima Snow Mountain Nature Reserve in Yunnan, which was established in 1983 and added to the list of national-level nature reserves in 1986.
Thanks to protection efforts, the group of 200 monkeys that Long Yongcheng, a chief scientist with the charitable environmental organization Nature Conservancy, encountered during his first forest expedition in 1987 has now grown to over 1,800, accounting for more than 60 percent of the world's total.
Taking the monkeys in other parts of Yunnan and Tibet's Markam County into account, the species' total population has surpassed 3,000, Long said after a joint expedition with three French scientists.
The number of endangered black snub-nosed monkeys in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region has increased from 50 in the 1990s to 700, the Markam County forestry bureau reported in January.
The black snub-nosed monkeys were close to extinction in the 1980s, because local hunters poached them for food or their striking black and white fur.
The key to saving the monkeys and their forest homes lies in raising awareness about the monkey and helping hunters switch to other livelihoods, said Long.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Nature Conservancy and local management agencies are conducting community outreach and school programs.
"We are providing funding and training to help hunters, often the poorest members of the communities, switch to other livelihoods," said Long.
Although black snub-nosed monkey population has increased significantly,environmental degradation and inadequate protection mean they are still endangered, said Xie Hongfang, head of the Baima Snow Mountain Nature Reserve Administration Bureau.
More than 70,000 people live in the nature reserve region, which covers 23 percent of Deqin County and Weixi Susu Autonomous County. Many of them are living in poverty and have to compete for resources with the animals in the nature reserve, said Xie.
"Local residents have made their sacrifices to protect the ecological environment and the endangered species," said Xie. "More compensation and support should be given to them to boost their incentive to protect the monkeys."