Grey snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus brelichi)

Also known as: Brelich's snub-nosed langur, Brelich's snub-nosed monkey, gray snub-nosed monkey, Guizhou snub-nosed langur, Guizhou snub-nosed monkey
Synonyms: Pygathrix brelichi, Rhinopithecus roxellana brelichi
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderPrimates
FamilyCercopithecidae
GenusRhinopithecus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 64 - 73 cm (2)
Tail length: 70 - 97 cm (2) (3)
Male weight: c. 15 kg (3)
Female weight: c. 8 kg (3)
Top facts

The grey snub-nosed monkey is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix I of CITES (4).

A large monkey with a long tail (3), the shy grey snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus brelichi) was once thought to be extinct because no records of the species were reported after its initial discovery. It was not until 1962 when a skull was obtained that the species was confirmed to still be alive (5).

The grey snub-nosed monkey has greyish-brown upperparts, is pale grey on its thighs, and has blackish paws and forearms as well as a blackish tail. Its neck and the top of its head are also black, with whitish tufts of hair on the ears and a reddish-brown patch on the brow. Its tail tip, the area between its shoulders, and its underside are a yellowish-white. The grey snub-nosed monkey has a reddish-brown band across its chest, and chestnut fur on its inner knees and the inner sides of its upper arms (2) (3) (6).

The grey snub-nosed monkey has a shelf-like brow and reduced nasal bones, giving it a distinctive snub-nosed appearance (2). Its face is bare, with bluish-white skin (2) (3) (6), while the skin around the eyes and mouth is pink (2) (3). There is a greyish fringe of hair around the face (3).

The male grey snub-nosed monkey is much more brightly coloured than the female, and also has prominent white skin on the nipples (2) (3) (6). Juvenile grey snub-nosed monkeys are various shades of grey, changing in colouration and patterning as they age (6).

This species is endemic to a small region of the Guizhou Province in southern China. The grey snub-nosed monkey occurs specifically in a small, continuous area of habitat centred on Fanjing Mountain (1) (3) (6).

The grey snub-nosed monkey lives in mixed deciduous and evergreen broadleaf forests (1) (3) (6). It is usually found at elevations between 1,400 and 2,300 metres but can be found at lower elevations during times of heavy snow cover (1).

The grey snub-nosed monkey eats a variety of plant material, including leaves, leaf buds, flower buds, fruits, seeds and bark, and it also feeds on insect larvae (1) (3) (6) (7). The types of food taken vary depending on the season (6) (7) (8) (9), although insects are eaten year-round (7). The buds of Magnolia sprengeri appear to be particularly important in the grey snub-nosed monkey’s diet, especially in winter (7).

The grey snub-nosed monkey is diurnal, which means that it is active during the daytime and sleeps at night (1). Although mostly arboreal, the grey snub-nosed monkey does come to the ground when its habitat lacks the appropriate tree cover (1).

The birth season for the grey snub-nosed monkey is from April to May (1), and the gestation period is approximately 200 days (10). Usually only one young is born at a time, or occasionally two. Male grey snub-nosed monkeys are likely to reach sexual maturity at about seven years old and females at four to five years (10).

The social system of the grey snub-nosed monkey is based on small groups of several females and their young with a single dominant male. These groups often come together into large cohesive bands to travel and rest, and these bands can consist of up to 400 individuals or more (1) (6) (8). All-male groups of around two to five adult or subadult males also occur (6).

One of the major threats to the grey snub-nosed monkey is accidental injury or death caused by non-targeted hunting. For example, this species may be caught in snares that were set for other animals (1) (5) (6). Like other Rhinopithecus species, the grey snub-nosed monkey has also been hunted for food and traditional medicine, and local people are often unaware of the laws protecting these species (6).

Habitat degradation such as firewood collection, charcoal production and illegal strip mining are reducing the habitat of the grey snub-nosed monkey (5) (6). Construction and other development due to the increase in tourism, such as tourist roads, cable cars and hotels, are also potential disturbances and pose the additional threat of habitat destruction (1). The grey snub-nosed monkey is shy of humans and will not usually use habitats where regular human activity occurs (5). Collection of magnolia flower buds and bark by local people was also previously a threat to this monkey, as it removed an important food source, but this practice is now thought to have ceased (1).

Since the grey snub-nosed monkey is endemic to just one small area, it is particularly vulnerable to epidemic diseases or environmental catastrophes (1). Its population is also perilously small, with only an estimated 750 individuals counted in 2007 to 2008 (5), of which fewer than 400 individuals may be mature adults (1).

The grey snub-nosed monkey is found in the protected Fanjingshan Nature Reserve (1) (6), with only one small group known to move outside of this area (1) (5). The grey snub-nosed monkey is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that international trade in this species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances (4). The species is also listed as Category I under the Chinese Wildlife Protection Act of 1989 (1).

One of the most urgent conservation actions needed for the grey snub-nosed monkey is to reduce the threats in and around the reserve (1). This is likely to require measures to improve the living standards of local people (6) and to introduce sustainable livelihoods, as well as to carry out education programmes and control illegal poaching (5). It will also be important to work with local communities to limit any collection of Magnolia sprengeri, as this plant provides a vital food source for the grey snub-nosed monkey (7).

There have been unconfirmed reports of a population of grey snub-nosed monkeys living in Jinfo Shan Nature Reserve, and there are also other possible sites nearby which might contain suitable habitat for this species. It will therefore be important to search these areas for any remaining populations of this threatened monkey, as well as to look into potential sites where translocations could take place to set up new grey snub-nosed monkey populations (1).

Find out more about Fanjingshan Nature Reserve:

More information on primate conservation:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2012)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Smith, A.T. and Xie, Y. (2008) A Guide to the Mammals of China. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
  4. CITES (December, 2012)
    http://www.cites.org/
  5. Xiang, Z.F., Nie, S.G., Lei, X.P., Chang, Z.F., Wei, F.W. and Li, M. (2009) Current status and conservation of the gray snub-nosed monkey Rhinopithecus brelichi (Colobinae) in Guizhou, China. Biological Conservation, 142: 469-476.
  6. Renmei, R., Kirkpatrick, R.C., Jablonski, N.G., Bleisch, W.V. and Canh, L.X. (1998) Conservation status and prospects of the snub-nosed langurs (Colobinae: Rhinopithecus). In: Jablonski, N.G. (Ed.) The Natural History of the Doucs and Snub-nosed Monkeys. World Scientific Publishing Co. Ltd., Singapore.
  7. Xiang, Z.F., Liang, W.B., Nie, S.G. and Li, M. (2012) Diet and feeding behavior of Rhinopithecus brelichi at Yangaoping, Guizhou. American Journal of Primatology, 74: 551-560.
  8. Bleisch, W.V. and Jiahua, X. (1998) Ecology and behavior of the Guizhou snub-nosed langur (Rhinopithecus [Rhinopithecus] brelichi), with a discussion of socioecology in the genus. In: Jablonski, N.G. (Ed.) The Natural History of the Doucs and Snub-nosed Monkeys. World Scientific Publishing Co. Ltd., Singapore.
  9. Bleisch, W.V., Liu, Z.M., Dierenfeld, E.S. and Xie, J.H. (1998) Selected nutrient analysis of plants in the diet of the Guizhou snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus [Rhinopithecus] brelichi). In: Jablonski, N.G. (Ed.) The Natural History of the Doucs and Snub-nosed Monkeys. World Scientific Publishing Co. Ltd., Singapore.
  10. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.