A visit to the Snub-Nosed Monkey National Park
Please describe your main duties as a ranger.
We mainly focus on the monkeys, in particular the habituated group. We spend basically every day with them so we always know where they are. In the mornings we lay out lichens, their favorite food, so they will come to areas where people can see them. Its not always easy to get the monkeys in the right spot, but by now they are used to our presence and getting fed.
How did this group become habituated?
20 years ago I was walking through the forest, at that time I was still earning a living by collecting plants and hunting animals, and I came across this group of Snub-nosed monkeys. I was fascinated and followed them during the day. The next day I was curious to see if I could find them again, so I set off. And yes!, I found the animals again and spent a few hours with them. Every day now I would go look for them, sometimes bringing some lichens to feed them. Slowly the animals got used to my presence and I was able to get quite close. Now we feed them in the summer in order that the animals stay in this area. Normally they would wander off to higher altitudes, but then the visitors couldn't see them. It is also safer for the animals here, where we can protect them from poachers.
Is this species still being hunted even though its endangered?
Yes. Maybe you noticed one of the large males is missing a hand? He walked into a snare several kilometers from here. He was found and with the right medical attention, we were able to save his life. Fortunately this group accepted him and he can now live here where its safe.
What role does the national park play in protecting the animals?
The park was established in 2009. By giving visitors the opportunity to see these magnificent animals in the wild, we hope to raise sympathy and raise awareness for their protection. However, the visitors do bring a lot of disturbance, especially when they are too loud or don't respect the monkeys. It is our job then to talk to the visitors and explain to them how to behave around wild animals.
How did you become a ranger and what kind of education do you have?
When the park was established, the authorities needed rangers who knew the area and the monkeys. We have lived in this village, which is now inside the parks vicinity, all our lives and are best suitable for this job. We receive some training once a year, otherwise we don't have any kind of education.
Can you tell me more about the rangers here and their job?
We are approx. 28 rangers, divided into two groups. One goes on patrol while the others stay here with the monkeys. Twice a week three to four people go on patrol. The difficulty is that we don't have any legal authority, but a special forest police exists and can give aid in special situations. If we spot a poacher, we cannot arrest them or fine them. But normally we just hope the poachers are unarmed and we can talk to them. We normally just carry a large knife and a GPS.
Who is your employer and are you organized in some kind of ranger federation?
We are employed by the national park. Even though we like this job, the salary is very low. So we still go into the forest to collect plants and sell them. We have never heard of a federation existing in China, we are surely not part of it and therefore we also do not have contact with other rangers in the country.
One last question, if the job is tough and the salary is low, would you want your children to become rangers?
Yes! Of course! We love being here and for us it is a privilege to preserve these unique animals.
We thank Xiaode Yu and Jianhua Yu for granting us this interview!
In the rugged hills of the Yunnan Mountains in China, live very curious looking primates - the Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys. They have adapted to a life in the high altitudes, where winters are harsh and summers short, calling the steep forests their home. Five snub-nosed monkey species exist in China and south east Asia, all of them endangered. We set out to find these monkeys, in hope to get a glimpse and a photo of them. Where would be the best place to find them? Of course in the snub nosed monkey national park, near the town of Tacheng.
The particular monkey group we were going to see is a habituated group consisting of approx. 30 individuals. Tourists come to see this group basically every day, so the animals are used to people and we could take some great photos. A group of rangers guard the animals and make sure they come and feed in places suitable for visitors to easily spot them in the trees. With the help of an English speaking volunteer from the park, we were able to interview two of the rangers, learned about their duties and their role in protecting the monkeys.