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Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey – 11 Interesting Facts

This beautiful primate is endemic to China and displays a rich golden brown/red fur with a gold and black patch on its back.

golden snub-nosed monkey baby

You really can’t mistake the unique and dashing look of the golden snub-nosed monkey. With a tail as long as its body, it’s not an animal you will be quick to forget.

Here are ten other remarkable details about these beautiful, endangered creatures.

1. They are known as ‘Old World monkeys’

golden snub-nosed monkey baby and its mother

Golden snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellana) belong to the Old World monkey family. They have physical characteristics similar to those of humans. These include nostrils that are closer together and point down, fingernails on hands, opposable thumbs, pads of skin around their tails that cushion them when they’re sitting. Unlike New World monkeys, they cannot use their long tails to hang from trees or grab objects.

2. They have beautiful reddish-gold fur all over

A pair of golden snub-nosed monkeys

Adult male and female golden snub-nosed monkeys have golden-orange foreheads, necks and stomachs. The fur on their cape and back is reddish gold with a brown to dark brown tinge around the outer arms, crown, nape, and thighs. All golden snub-nosed monkeys have a pale blue face, a large set of teeth and a flat nose, and their tails are longer than their entire body length. The infants are not born golden but brownish gray and gradually change color as they grow older.

Male golden snub-nosed monkeys weigh between 15 to 39 kilos, while females weigh around 7 to 10 kilos. They can grow up to 57-76 cm from head to body, and their tails are usually 51 to 72 cm long. Males are naturally more muscular than females.

3. Golden snub-nosed monkeys have many distinct features

up close of a golden snub-nosed monkey

Their extremely short noses and beautiful reddish-gold fur are their most distinct features. Because they live in severely cold regions, these primates have no use for a longer nose as it would be hard to keep warm and may get frost-bitten.

Their thick, long fur covers every bit of their bodies, except around the eyes, nose and mouth, while their hands are padded, looking like they’re wearing mittens. Throughout the year, their fur changes. In spring, they shed and grow shorter hair to adjust to the warmer temperature of summer. This fur is brownish gray, which helps them blend into the forest. In autumn, they molt again and grow a thicker golden orange coat that gives warmth in winter.

4. They are native only to China

golden snub-nosed monkey with a sad look on its face

Native to China, golden snub-nosed monkeys dwell in the mountain of Gansu, Hubei, Shaanxi, and the Sichuan provinces, where the largest population has been sighted. They prefer the conifer forests and deciduous broadleaf around the Tibetan plateau at elevations of 13,000 feet and are among the few primates that reside in temperate zones. But in the height of winter, they climb down to woodlands at lower altitudes where it’s easier to find food.

5. Golden snub-nosed monkeys are highly social animals

A pairt of golden snub-nosed monkeys on a rock

Golden snub-nosed monkeys are highly social and live in family units that consist of a dominant male and several females with their young. Often these units combine to form bands, and the groups combine to form troops which could grow up to 600 members. The members work together to find food and protect each other from predators. The males are primarily responsible for keeping everyone safe, while the females help each other take care of the young. During winter, the large groups split into smaller units of 20 to 70 monkeys.

Golden snub-nosed monkeys are also highly active. They hang out on tree branches feeding, grooming and socializing. Most of their activities occur during the day, and they rest at night. Females and their offspring huddle in clusters when they sleep to keep each other warm during cold nights. Adult males sleep separately to guard the unit against intruders.

6. They are herbivores and have a varied diet

These monkeys are herbivores and eat a variety of food. Their diet varies depending on the season. Generally, they consume seeds, buds, leaves, pine needles, young firs, bamboo shoots, herbs, tree barks, flowers and fruits. But their favorite is lichen which is available all year round.

7. Golden snub-nosed monkeys are endagered

golden snub-nosed monkey baby and its mother

The number of golden snub-nosed monkeys has declined by 50 percent over the last four decades, with an estimated remaining population of 8,000 to 10,000. Habitat loss due to deforestation is the biggest threat golden snub-nosed monkeys are facing. Human activities such as agricultural expansion have destroyed their forest home and food sources. Poachers also illegally hunt these primates for their fur, meat, and organs for traditional medicine.

To help save the golden snub-nosed monkeys, the Chinese Wildlife Protection Act declares their natural habitat nature reserves. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) prohibits the trade of these species.

8. They can communicate with vocalizations without using their mouths

close up of golden snub-nosed monkeys face

Golden snub-nosed monkeys can communicate and produce vocalizations without moving their mouths. Their large nostrils make it possible to do this. 

Researchers have long been fascinated by their vocals, including their calls, which they use for greeting, giving alarms, and warning others of dangers. They also make distinct noises, such as whines, squeaks, grunts, sighs, moans, and belches.

Apart from making sounds, golden snub-nosed monkeys also use facial expressions and gestures to communicate. For instance, crouching conveys submission, opening the mouth encourages vocal communication, and staring at the adversary while shrugging the shoulders shows aggression.

9. Living in larger groups helps then live longer

pair of golden snub-nosed monkeys cleaning each other

On average, the life expectancy of golden snub-nosed monkeys is around 20 to 30 years. This long lifespan is mainly due to living in large troops, which helps protect them from predators and increases their chance of finding food.

10. Golden snub-nosed monkeys are polygynous animals

It means one male has the right to mate with multiple females. Breeding occurs throughout the year but peaks around September to November. Gestation lasts for six to seven months, and most births occur from March to May. Females give birth to one offspring each. Newborns constantly stay with their mothers until around 20 days old. After a year, when they begin living with the group, their mothers wean them. Females are ready to mate by four to five years old, while males sexually mature at seven years old.

11. Some people believe the pelt of golden snub-nosed monkeys cures and prevents rheumatism? 

For this reason, some individuals wear clothes made of this animal’s fur. It is, of course, quite unlikely that any part of the golden snub-nosed monkey has medicinal properties. We do know for sure that they are outstandingly charming and lovable.

Written by Joe Kahlo