Rhinopithecus Research Projects


Samage Forest Research Project

Cyril C. Grueter and colleagues

Overview: Determinants of Socioecology in Black-and-White Golden Monkeys and Conservation Implications

This academic and conservation management project has both an empirical and applied component. It is aimed at enhancing the still rudimentary knowledge of the behavioral ecology of an unusual primate, the black-and-white snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti). This is one of the few primate taxa to inhabit temperate environments with severely cold winters. Almost nothing is known about the dynamics of their social system and the underlying behavioral mechanisms. Their multilayered social organisation with huge group sizes appears to be one of the most complex of any non-human primate. To obtain reliable counts of all members of a R. bieti and analyze the size, composition, spatial distribution of subunits in the band as well as progression orders and possible changes in grouping patterns through time, I try to get several video footages of a band of R. bieti whenever crossing a gully and drinking at a water hole. Furthermore scans are taken to study time allocation patterns and feeding behavior as well as social behavior. Among others, I study age-sex specific grooming patterns, the behavioral mechanism that hold OMUs together, evaluate the degree to which R. bieti males are involved in affiliative social network with females and young  and verify the anecdotal evidence of male infant care. The eccological study deals with range use and habitat utilization. Seasonality is expected to have a profound influence on their behavior and ecology. This project is relevant to the understanding of human evolution because studying a human-related species subjected to climatic cold may provide insights into etho-behavioral adaptations of our ancestors that had to deal with similar environmental stress. Besides, gathering more information about the behavioral ecology of an understudied taxonomic group will undoubtedly contribute to update current socioecological models in primatology which are biased towards easier to observe primate species. Moreover, knowledge of behavioral ecology is important where careful strategic conservation planning is needed. R. bieti is one of the most endangered primate species living in a highly fragmented habitat. The conservation-related part of my project deals with assessing the impact of increasing human disturbance (mainly tourism and also herding of the animals) on the monkeys’ behavior. Ultimately, findings of the field investigation (e.g. habitat preferences, social organisation) shall be used to establish a sustainable management concept for this monkey population, and public awareness campaigns including workshops shall be launched to inform local communities and decision-makers about the plight of this remarkable primate species.  A pilot study was carried out there in 2003.


Pilot Study in 2003

Study Site

Tacheng (27o36'N, 99o15'E) is located in the middle part of the distribution of R. bieti in the south of Baimaxueshan Nature Reserve (Samage Forest). Sighting frequencies of monkeys here are much better than at other field sites. There are in total two bands of R. bieti in the Samage Forest near Tacheng (Xiangguqing band, N = ca 400; Gehuaqing band, N = ca 200), being found at elevations between 2700 and 3700 m. Tacheng contains the largest population of R. bieti in the world. The Gehuaqing group can be regarded as at least partially habituated since human approaches on the ground are occasionally possible to a distance below 50 m. The Xiangguqing group is frequently "herded" by Nature Reserve Staff, i.e. the group is artificially confined to a small forest patch by means of anthropogenic range restriction.

The vegetation is mainly composed of mixed conifer and broad-leaved forests (e.g. spruce Picea likiangensis, Tsuga dumosa, oak Quercus spp., Rhododendron, Betula spp., Acer spp.) and predominantly fir (Abies georgei) forest at above 3500 m as well as bamboo in the understorey. There is also secondary warm-temperate conifer forests (pine Pinus yunnanensis) at lower altitudes. In terms of botanical and zoological diversity, this is one of the richest temperate regions in China, containing rare species such as red pandas (Ailurus fulgens), musk deer and  also Asiatic wild dogs (Cuon alpinus). Notable bird species at Samage include Lady Amherst's Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae), Mrs Hume's Pheasant (Syrmaticus humiae), Mrs Gould's Sunbird (Aethopyga gouldiae), spotted nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes), Mountain Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus nipalensis), White-bellied Woodpecker (Dryocopus javensis). 


For a detailed proposal, contact CC Grueter.

Main Study in 2005/2006



R. bieti Field Research Sites



Laojunshan / Jinsichang (Lijiang, )


Dr. Ren Baoping (IOZ), ongoing;

Dr. Yang Shijian (Yunnan Normal University), completed


Wuyapiya / Nanren / Sharong (Deqin)


Cui Liangwei (KIZ), completed;

Dr. R. Craig Kirkpatrick (TRAFFIC), completed & Long Yongcheng (TNC)

Wuyapiya (© CC Grüter)


Investigators: Dr. Liu Zehua (Qinghai Normal University), completed



Investigator: Huo Sheng (KIZ), ongoing


Samage - Tacheng (Gehuaqing & Xiangguqing) (Weixi)

Investigators: Dr. Ding Wei (Qinghai Normal University), completed;

Cyril C. Grüter (AIM),  ccgrueter@bluewin.ch, ccgrueter@rhinopithecus.net & Li Dayong (China West Normal University) & Zhou Qihai  (Guangxi Normal University) & Ren Baoping (IOZ), ongoing


Gehuaqing Xiangguqing



Xiaochangdu (© Xiang ZF)


Investigator: Xiang Zuofu (KIZ), completed

Quan Ruichang (KIZ), ongoing


R. roxellana Field Research Sites




Investigators: Prof. Su Yanjie (PKU); Dr. Li Yiming (IOZ),




Investigators: Prof. Li Baoguo (Northwest University, Xian), Dr. Chia Tan (The Zoological Society of San Diego), , ...

Conservation and Ecology of Golden Monkeys in China Golden monkeys

Golden monkeys Rhinopithecus roxellana occur only in isolated temperate forest habitat fragments in the northern Hengduan, Qinling, and Daba mountain ranges of China. Millennium Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Chia Tan of the San Diego Zoo's CRES is working to understand the ecology of this rare species in order to gain critical knowledge for their effective conservation management. Through supplemental feeding, Dr. Tan has habituated a large group of golden monkeys, enabling her to study their foraging ecology, social behavior, infant development, and vocalization patterns. The research team, which includes scientists and students from Northwest University in Xi’an, Shaanxi, is the first and only to have successfully habituated golden monkeys in the wild. Their work is providing important new insights into how logging impacts the ranging patterns and foraging decisions of golden monkeys. Recognizing that the golden monkey is only one part of the Qinling Mountain ecosystem, Dr. Tan has helped to establish a Cooperative Ecological Research Unit with Northwest University. The ultimate goal of the partnership, which includes training of students, is to complete a broad-based analysis of the Qinling ecosystem that can be used to guide conservation management decisions.


No information on research activities


No information on research activities


No information on research activities




Investigator: Dr. R. Craig Kirkpatrick, completed &


No information on research activities


No information on research activities


No information on research activities


No information on research activities


No information on research activities


No information on research activities

R. avunculus Field Research Sites


Ha Giang

Du Gia & Khau Ca

Investigator: Le Khac Quyet (FFI), ongoing

© Le Khac Quyet

 The Tonkin snub-nosed (TSN) monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus) is recognized as one of the 25 most critically endangered primates in the world. Endemic to Vietnam, it is presently known only from three locations: Na Hang, Cham Chu, and Du Gia nature reserves. During the past year our team has spent approximately 12 days per month collecting data on this species at Du Gia. This nature reserve is located in Ha Giang, the northern most province in Vietnam and the TSN monkeys are known to range over 1,600ha in the reserve. In significant contrast to Na Hang and Cham Chu, TSN monkeys are encountered on a nearly daily basis at Du Gia. The Du Gia population appears to include two multimale – multifemale groups of 20-30 animals and possibly one or two small all male groups. We estimate that the Du Gia population of TSN monkeys to be at least 60 individuals. Moreover, this population appears to be growing; in June of 2005 one group with at least 29 animals was observed that included three infants less than nine months in age and at least six juveniles. Finally, this information is of critical importance to TSN monkey conservation because the populations at Cham Chu and Na Hang are decreasing in size.

Tuyen Quang

Na Hang & Khau Ca

Investigator: Hai Dong Thanh (Australian National University), ongoing; thanh.dong@anu.edu.au 

© R. Boonratana


The Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus (Presbytiscus) avunculus) is a critically endangered primate endemic to northern Vietnam. It remains relatively unstudied in comparison with the  other members of the “snub-nosed” group. Thus, this will be the first long-term study of its behaviour and ecology. The primary goal is to elucidate information on the species’ social organization and behaviour, feeding ecology, habitat and range use. The information gathered will result in conservation and management recommendations for the species and its habitat. The team will work with local people to development the capacity of members of the stakeholder communities and promote conservation awareness amongst the other members of the stakeholder communities. Local people will be participating in both a classroom training programme at the beginning of the study and while “on the job”. This training progamme will provide local people with basic knowledge and skills in field conservation techniques and in field primatology. Systematic observations will be conducted over a year on wild population of R. (P.) avunculus at Na Hang Nature Reserve, Tuyen Quang Province and northern Vietnam.

R. brelichi Field Research Sites



Investigators: Dr. William Bleisch (FFI), completed;

Dr. Yang Yeqin (Fanjingshan Nature Reserve)