As the langurs traverse a towering karst peak in a setting out of a Chinese landscape painting, they appear untouched by time and change, but it is remarkable that they and their tropical forest home have survived. In 1996, when the langurs were highly endangered, Pan Wenshi, China’s premier panda biologist, came to study them in Chongzuo at what was then an abandoned military base. This was at a time when hunters were taking the canary-yellow young langurs from their cliff-face strongholds, and villagers were leveling the forest for firewood.
Dr. Pan quickly hired wardens to protect the remaining animals but then went a step further, taking on the larger social and economic factors jeopardizing the species. Dr. Pan recognized the animal’s origin myth as legend, but he also believed that alleviating the region’s continuing poverty was essential for their long-term survival.
In the 24-square-kilometer nature reserve where he has focused his studies, the langur population increased to more than 500 today from 96 in 1996.
See a related slide show here.