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Documenting Illegal Mining Impacts on Guizhou Golden Monkey Habitat

Project Summary

Guizhou province in southwestern China contains the only populations of the Guizhou snub-nosed golden monkey (Rhinopithecus brelichi), one of three species of golden monkey in the world. Highly endangered, these rare monkeys were still an unproven rumor in the 1950s. Recent exploration of their habitat in Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve has lent preliminary knowledge of golden monkey movements, habitat, and population. With an approximate population of 700-800, the Guizhou golden monkey inhabits 34,000 ha of evergreen and deciduous broadleaf forests between 1000 and 2200 m in elevation. Research has yet to include analysis of the impacts of human activities upon the golden monkey habitat. Such human activities include tourism, gathering wood and medicinal plants, and, in the past decade, illegal mining of manganese and copper. It is hypothesized that illegal mining activity is having a negative impact on the monkey habitat, thus affecting this endangered species. Using remote sensing techniques, the extent of illegal mining encroachment upon key golden monkey habitat can be determined, mapped, and analyzed in order to better understand the impacts and formulate a conservation approach to address them. These techniques include the use of LANDSAT TM imagery (30m resolution), infrared vegetation classification, geographic information systems (GIS), water sampling, interviews, and camera trapping to identify and document potential mining areas and habitat. Comparison of such areas with known locations of illegal mining on the ground will be conducted to improve mapping accuracy. Further fieldwork and analysis through landscape metrics may yield an understanding of mining impacts upon the golden monkey habitat. This investigation of illegal mining impact upon golden monkey habitat can contribute to conservation efforts for the Guizhou golden monkey and provide base data for future on-site projects.


The research will act as a groundbreaking documentation of a current conservation issue for an endangered species through applying methodologies to new areas and situations. It will verify methods and approaches for the documentation and assessment of impacts of illegal mining activity on Guizhou golden monkeys. Furthermore, the methodology established from this study hold applications for global conservation of other endangered primates, i.e. the other three species of snub-nosed monkey, through the use of data and methods the study to assess environmental degradation and effects on endangered populations of primates and to locate, stop, and prevent illegal mining in other habitats. The results and methodology could further be used in legal mining situations to increase the accuracy of environmental impact assessment reports.

The results from the research project will contribute to global efforts for the conservation of the Guizhou golden monkey by documenting a major threat to its habitat and providing the information needed to conserve the species. The resulting data will indicate the areas of illegal mining effects upon the golden monkey population, which will lead to management recommendations for the forest reserve personnel and increase the management capacity by providing much needed knowledge. The study will raise awareness about illegal mining and endangered species such as the Guizhou golden monkey and also contribute towards global conservation efforts.


Dr. Li An, Assistant Professor, San Diego State University

Sarah Wandersee, Doctoral Student, San Diego State University/University of California, Santa Barbara


Margot Marsh Biodiversity Fund, San Diego Zoological Society

Zoological Society of San Diego, CRES Center


Director Yeqin Yang, Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve

Dr. Chia Tan, Zoological Society of San Diego


Wandersee, S., An, L., López-Carr, D., & Yang, Y. (2012). Perception and Decisions in Modeling Coupled Human and Natural Systems: A Case Study from Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve, China. Ecological Modelling. Spec. Issue of Modeling Human Decisions 229: 37-49.

Aitken, S.C., An, L., Wandersee, S., & Yang, Y. (in press). Renegotiating Local Values: The Case of Fanjingshan Reserve, China. Festschrift Publication.

Conference Presentations

Wandersee, S. & An, L., Yang, Y. (2012, Feb.). From paper to practice: Land cover dynamics in Guizhou golden monkey habitat, China. Paper session presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, New York, NY.

Wandersee, S., An, L., & Yang, Y. (2011, Apr.). ’Pest’ species and conservation in mixed use reserves: Human-environment dynamics in Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve, China. Paper session presented at the 2011 US-IALE Annual Meeting, Portland, OR.

Wandersee, S., An, L., & López-Carr, D. (2011, Feb.). Perception and Decisions in Modeling Complex Human-Environment Dynamics in Protected Areas: A Case Study from Guizhou, China. Paper session presented at the 2011 Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.

Wandersee, S., An, L., & Yang, Y. (2010, Apr.). Forest vegetation dynamics in Guizhou golden monkey habitat, China. Paper session presented at the 2010 US-IALE 25th Anniversary Symposium, Athens, GA.

Wandersee, S., An, L., Yang, Y., & Tan, C. (2009, Oct.). Chinese National Policy Effects on Local Level Conservation and Communities: Preliminary results from Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve. Paper session presented at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers, San Diego, CA.

Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, 2009, Las Vegas, Nevada: Poster Presentation, Documenting Impacts of Illegal Mining on Guizhou Golden Monkey Habitat in Southwestern China Using Remote Sensing, Sarah Wandersee and Dr. Li An, Poster Presentation

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