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UPDATED: March 6, 2012
China Sets up Research Center to Protect Rare Golden Monkeys

China's golden monkeys will get better protection as the national forestry authorities approved the establishment of a research center for the rare species at the end of February, an official said.

Approved by the State Forestry Administration, the center is set up in Shennongjia Nature Reserve in central China's Hubei Province, said Qian Yuankun, Communist Party chief of the Shennongjia Forestry District that administers the reserve.

Qian, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) who is in Beijing to participate in this year's NPC annual session, said the center is the country's second wild animal research and protection base after the Wolong Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in southwestern Sichuan Province.

"The establishment of the golden monkey center will attract more financial support and uplift the research and study on the protection of the animal," Qian said.

He said China's science authorities have already approved a program of 30 million yuan ($4.76 million) on the research and protection of golden monkeys in Shennongjia.

"The center will also promote international exchanges and cooperation in this field," Qian said.

The Shennongjia golden monkeys, who live in thick forests at altitudes of between 1,680 to 3,000 meters, are on the verge of extinction.

They were first spotted in Shennongjia in the 1960s. The first census of the golden monkeys in the 1980s revealed that only 501 of the primates lived in the area.

The monkey is a sub-species of the Chuan golden monkey in Sichuan Province -- one of three kinds of golden monkeys which can be found only in China.

Regarded as China's "state treasure," just like the giant pandas, golden monkeys are under the state's top level protection.

They also live in Sichuan Province and in the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu.

Located in the northwestern mountains in Hubei Province, the Shennongjia reserve boasts rich natural forest resources and animal species.

Dubbed "Noah's Arc" for plants from the glacial period, the Shennongjia area is often referred to as a "home of living plant fossils."

(Xinhua News Agency March 5, 2012)

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