Monday, March 9, 2009

Back in Chongzuo

I wrote a story last fall on Pan Wenshi—China's founding father of conservation biology—and the white headed langur, an endangered monkey he’s spent the past decade trying to save.

At the time, Pan told me I really should come back in late winter when the year’s newborns still have their bright, canary yellow fur. I knew that Pan and his students also do an annual census of the langurs through the winter months, so when the chance came for me to make a return visit, I jumped on it.

I’m now mid-way through a two-week stay at the Chongzuo Eco Park, a 24-square km nature reserve a stone’s throw from the Vietnam border in southern China. The very phrase Chinese-nature-reserve may sound like a complete contradiction of terms, but this tiny island of biodiversity—in a country that is admittedly otherwise choking on its own pollution—is absolutely breathtaking.

When Pan arrived here 13 years ago, locals were well on their way to poaching the last remaining langurs, felling what was left of their forest habitat for firewood, and blasting their mountain home into limestone quarries.

Over the past decade, however, he’s had phenomenal success working with surrounding villages to help bring them out of poverty and to foster in them an interest in wildlife protection. The end result has been rapid reforestation within the reserve and a five-fold increase in the langur’s population--including one really cute newborn that we’ve been watching the past few days.


Images of langur and reserve courtesy of Peking University Chongzuo Biodiversity Research Institute.

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