The Myanmar snub-nosed monkey may survive because of work by communities, NGOs and the Myanmar and Chinese governments.
In 2010, a scientist working for Fauna & Flora International (FFI) discovered a new primate species in Myanmar, the following year scientists in China confirmed the same species in the neighbouring forests of Yunnan province. Two years later, Rhinopithecus strykeri, the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey AKA the “snubby,” was declared critically endangered – becoming one of the most endangered primates on the planet due to small population size and threats from hunting and habitat loss.
Eight years on and now scientists have released a new report revealing how the primates are faring. Remarkably, things are looking relatively up. While the species remains in critical status, joint action by communities, governments and NGOs have resulted in a dramatic improvement in the outlook for the beloved snubby..
“Straddling the border lands of the Eastern Himalayas between Kachin state in Myanmar and Yunnan province in China the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey has been seriously threatened by hunting and wildlife trade, illegal logging and forest destruction linked to hydropower schemes and associated infrastructure development,” notes a statement by the German Primate Center, who published the report along with FFI and Dali University. “The good news, however, is that this situation is beginning to turn around.”
The report explains that “intensive community-based conservation awareness” has worked successfully to reduce the local hunting pressure in Myanmar, while the “implementation of a trans-boundary agreement between China and Myanmar, signed in 2015, has significantly reduced illegal trans-boundary wildlife trade and illegal logging.”
© Shaohua Dong
Both the Myanmar and Chinese Governments have initiated the creation of new protected areas on either side of the border; Myanmar will have the Imawbum National Park and China will have the Nujiang Grand Canyon National Park. “Crucially, both governments recognised the importance of integrating the socioeconomic needs of local communities within the planning process, and the new protected areas will reflect this,” notes the statement.
“Protected area designation and trans-boundary collaboration, combined with the active participation of local communities in both biodiversity conservation and sustainable economic development, have substantially improved the chances for the snubby to be saved from the brink of extinction,” says Frank Momberg, Director of Fauna & Flora International’s Myanmar programme.
Reading the report is encouraging (you can download it here). WIth a focus on working closely with indigenous groups in the areas, as well as the governments’ work and NGO conservation achievements, the snubby just might have a fighting chance. And importantly, the story of the snub-nosed monkey can hopefully serve as a roadmap for saving other imperiled species as well.