Golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana)

Also known as: Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey
Synonyms: Pygathrix roxellana
GenusRhinopithecus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 57 - 76 cm (2)
Tail length: 51 - 72 cm (2)
Male weight: 15 – 39 kg (3)
Female weight: 6.5 – 10 kg (3)

The golden snub-nosed monkey is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (4). Three subspecies are recognised: the Hubei golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana hubeiensis), the Quinling golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana qinlingensis) and the Moupin golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana roxellana); all are classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The beautiful golden snub-nosed monkey has blackish-grey shoulders, upper arms, back, crown, and tail, with the back being covered in a longer layer of fine silver hairs. In males, the sides of the head, forehead, and neck and underparts are bright golden in colour, hence the common name of this species. Females are generally similar in appearance to males, but the head and upperparts are more brownish black (2). Their noses are, as the name suggests, flattened and set back from the muzzle. The wide nostrils face forwards and there are two small flaps of skin above the nostrils that nearly touch the forehead (2). These monkeys produce a wide range of vocalisations often, remarkably, without making any facial movements, in the manner of a ventriloquist (5).

This species is endemic to western-central China, where it occurs in the provinces of Sichuan, Gansu, Hubei and Shaanxi (1).

The golden snub-nosed monkey inhabits high mountainous forests, reaching elevations of around 3,000 metres (3), but it may descend to lower altitudes in winter (2). It lives in deciduous broadleaved and coniferous forests (1).

The golden snub-nosed monkey is a highly social primate, forming units of 20 to 30 individuals in winter, which often come together into larger troops of up to 200 in the summer (3). Several of these groups may in turn combine temporarily to form enormous bands of up to 600 (3). These larger groups are sub-divided into smaller family units comprising of one dominant male and around four females with their young (2). Most activity occurs in the trees, but some feeding may take place on the ground (2). When threatened, the golden snub-nosed monkey takes refuge by climbing very quickly high up into the trees. It feeds mainly on pine needles and young firs, but may also eat bamboo shoots, leaves, buds and fruits (2). 

Although golden snub-nosed monkeys display mating behaviour throughout the year, most births tend to occur between March and May (2) (5). Most matings are solicited by the female, who signals her readiness to mate with a number of signals and postures (5). One young is normally produced after an estimated gestation period of around six months (5), although occasionally two infants may be produced (2). It is the mother that provides most of the infant’s care, although other male and female members of the group are also protective over the young infant (5). Sexual maturity is attained at seven years in males and four to five years in females (2).

The golden snub-nosed monkey has long been hunted for use in traditional medicines, with the pelt of the species once thought to prevent rheumatism, as well as for its fur and meat. Today, this hunting continues with this exploitation compounded by the ongoing loss of its forest habitat (1) (2) (5).

This endearing primate is found in a number of protected areas, including Baihe Nature Reserve, Foping Nature Reserve, Shennongjia Nature Reserve and Wanglang Nature Reserve (1). The golden snub-nosed monkey is also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meaning that international trade in this species is prohibited (4). 

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Authenticated (14/10/05) by Matt Richardson, independent primatologist and writer.

  1. IUCN Red List (September 2009)
  2. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  3. Richardson, M. (2005) Pers. comm.
  4. CITES (September 2009)
  5. Gron, K.J. (2007) Primate Factsheets: Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana). Primate Info Net, Wisconsin Primate Research Centre.  Available at: