KUNMING, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- The black-and-white snub-nosed monkeys, also known as Yunnan golden hair monkeys, are enjoying a peaceful life in their traditional habitat in southwest China. The population of one of the world's most endangered species is steadily increasing.
Zhong Tai, an engineer from Baima Snow Mountain National Nature Reserve in Yunnan Province, still remembers his first encounter with the "snow mountain elf" during a field investigation in 1985.
"They had a human-like face, and their big red lips were very special and beautiful," Zhong recalled. "The reason why they are called 'snow mountain elves' is not only because of their appearance, but also because they live in the depths of the snow mountains and are rarely seen."
Around the 1980s, hunting and logging damaged the habitats of the monkeys, posing threats to their survival.
"The monkeys disappeared from villagers' sight because they were afraid of people," said 69-year-old Yu Jianhua, a forest ranger.
Habitat improvement is fundamental to biodiversity conservation. In 1983, Yunnan established the reserve to save the endangered monkeys. In 1988, the reserve was upgraded to the national level.
To make the monkeys feel "at home," surrounding residents were also mobilized to participate in the conservation efforts.
"The villagers who once caused damage have gradually joined the ecology protection efforts," said Yu, adding that areas near many villages have become important habitats for the monkeys.
"The monkeys are not so afraid of people now and can sometimes be seen from less than 50 meters away," he said.
Thanks to the joint efforts of the government, researchers and local villagers, the number of Yunnan golden hair monkeys in the reserve has risen from no more than 500 to over 2,300, according to Zhong.
In addition to Baima Snow Mountain, Yunnan has been committed to building a scientific nature reserve system, effectively protecting the populations and habitats of a large number of rare and endangered animals such as green peacocks and Asian elephants.
Since the establishment of Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve, the first nature reserve in Yunnan, in 1958, 362 nature reserves of 11 types have been built, covering an area of nearly 5.5 million hectares, or about 14.32 percent of the province's land area, according to Wang Weibin, deputy head of the provincial forestry and grassland bureau.
According to investigations and monitoring, the population and distribution area of about 50 kinds of wild animals in Yunnan have increased and expanded, such as the Asian elephant and western black crested gibbon. As many as 420 species of birds migrate to Yunnan every year.
"Species such as black crested gibbon, snub-nosed monkey and green peacock play a flagship role in the ecosystem, and are also indicators of regional biodiversity. Protecting them will protect the biodiversity and ecosystem of the whole region," said Yang Yuming, a professor at Yunnan Academy of Forestry and Grassland.
By the end of 2020, China had 11,800 nature reserves of various types including 474 at the national level, accounting for 18 percent of its land area and achieving the 17-percent Aichi biodiversity target of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity ahead of schedule.