Golden Snub Nosed Monkey, Rhinopithecus roxellana

The golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), also known as the  Sichuan golden hair monkey or the Sichuan snub-nosed monkey, is a species of Old World monkey that can be found in Southwest China. This species prefers to reside in temperate forests in mountainous areas, at elevations between 4,921 and 11,154 feet. It holds three subspecies known as the Qinling golden snub-nosed monkey, the Hubei golden snub-nosed monkey, and the Moupin golden snub-nosed monkey, all of which are separated from by human settlements and the Han River valley.

The golden snub-nosed monkey differs in appearance depending upon its age. Older adult males have large bodies and thick, golden fur, with brown fur occurring along the neck, shoulders, and legs in a shape known as a crest, which allows for individual identification. Sub-adult males, between the ages of five and seven, are similar in appearance to adults, but they are smaller and their fur is not as developed.

Adult female golden snub-nosed monkeys are nearly half the size of males and hold darker brown fur, although golden fur does occur on the back and shoulders. Sub-adult females, between the ages of three and four, are smaller than adult females and have dark brown fur, but the golden guard hairs of adults have not yet grown in at this life stage. Young individuals, between the ages of one and three, are smaller than adult females and are light brown in color with reddish and gold markings. Individuals one year and younger are light brown or grey in color and can appear to be white. Individuals younger than three months of age are dark or light grey in color.

The golden snub-nosed monkey resides in groups between five and six hundred individuals. These groups hold complicated social structures that begin with one-male-units or OMU’s. OMU’s form multiple levels within larger groups, each holding several females and the young produced between them. These larger groups, which are most often seen foraging, are sometimes thought to hold multi male and multi-female social structures.

The males in each OMU may separate themselves from the females, especially when the group is resting. Females are more social than males and tend to socialize with each other more than young individuals or males, creating close relationships. When two OMU’s encounter one another, they sometimes end up fighting and all individuals will work together to protect both adults and young. It is thought that groups may sleep together, forming clusters in order to keep warm or protect young from predators. Males are most often seen sleeping alone or remaining awake in order to watch for predators, which include the northern goshawk and the Asiatic golden cat.

The golden snub-nosed monkey is able to breed throughout the year, but it typically breeds during the month of October. Females give birth between the months of March and June, after a pregnancy period of six to seven months. Competition in small groups is limited, while males and females may partake in selective breeding in larger groups.

The diet of the golden snub-nosed monkey consists of plant materials like lichens, fruits, seeds, bark, and flowers, among other materials. Its diet varies depending upon the area of its range and the season, but this species is thought to prefer to consume lichens when they are able. It tends to forage in larger trees at a safer level than the forest floor or canopies, but this does not always protect them against predators.

The golden snub-nosed monkey is threatened by habitat loss, which takes away its shelter and many of its food sources. It does occur in several protected areas including Foping National Nature Reserve and is protected under Appendix I of CITES. The golden snub-nosed monkey appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Endangered.”

Image Caption: Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys in Qinling Mountains, China. Credit: Giovanni Mari/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)