It is said that humans are largely controlled by emotions while animals are generally ruled by instinct. Then is it possible for a monkey and a man to form a deep-felt friendship based on mutual appreciation, trust and respect?
A Chance Meeting
One day in March five years ago, in 2009, Chinese villager Xiao, a native of Mayang River Nature Reserve in China’s Guizhou province, saw a Francois’ left monkey caught in a wild pig trap. Knowing it belongs to a protected wildlife species, he freed the poor creature and brought it home to take care of its injured leg.
The monkey had no objection for Xiao to applying meshed medicinal herbs on its wound but refused to eat any food given by the man, albeit it appeared to be terribly hungry. Seemingly this is a monkey with stronger willpower and a sense of self-discipline.
It was until Xiao took a bite of his apple, showing his guest it was poison free, the monkey cautiously picked up an apple and tentatively tasted the fruit.
Since then, mutual trust established between the monkey and the man.
Four months later, summer arrived and wild fruits were all ripe, Xiao decided it was time to send the monkey back to the wilderness.
He took his tailed friend to a deep mountain and gestured for the monkey to go. It went, but before doing so, the monkey stared at the man for a lengthy period as if wanted to memorize his face. And it kept turning its head looking at Xiao when it slowly strode away.
Five years passed. One morning in late November 2014, when Xiao opened his door, he found seven monkeys squatting in his front yard, and an old monkey gazed at him intently. At that point, Xiao realized it was his tailed friend coming back with his new family.
An excited Xiao dashed forward, and a monkey and a man hugged each other with emotion. What a reunion scene!
Since then, Xiao has become the supreme leader of the 800-member Francois’ left monkey kingdom in Mayang River Reserve Park, which is believed to be the home to the biggest Francois’ left monkey community in the world.
Whenever the supreme human leader summons his tailed friend, the monkey king Lao Hei (Old Black), by calling out “Lao Hei”, the king and his subjects would spring to his side, to shake hands with him, to receive sweep potatoes distributed by him, or just to take photo shots with him.
Francois’ left monkey, also known as Francois’ langur or Tonkin left monkey, is a lutung species surviving in subtropical areas, mainly in south-western China and north-eastern Vietnam, with primary settlements found in Mayang River in Guizhou province, as well as in Nonggang and Fusui Nature Reserves in Guangxi province.
These monkeys are social animals living in extended families, each with members of around half a dozen to two dozen. They also have fixed dwellings, normally in a limestone cave high up the cliff face in the karst regions, a topography that is rather common in China’s Guizhou and Guangxi provinces. Each day when dusk falls, the head of the family is the first to enter the cave to conduct a security assessment. Only when the leader is convinced everything is fine just like the previous day, the rest will be allowed to step in in an orderly fashion, with pregnant and babysitting female monkeys at the end of the queue.
So this is what they do: they leap between tree tops during the day like kung fu masters, and sleep on cliffs at night like hermits. When they need to drink, instead of going down to rivers or streams, they search for dew on plant foliage – plain grounds are just too dangerous for these peace-loving vegetarians. The terrible lessons that Lao Hei and Lao Hei’s ancestors learned have been imprinted deep in their DNA.
But even so, their populations decline rapidly in the past 30 years since China’s “reform & open up” began which has nurtured a culture of greed in Chinese society. As the government urges people to get rich fast, many are willing to do anything to make quick cash with no regard for laws or moral standards. Most of Francois’ left monkeys were hunted down by poachers for their fur and bones. In Guangxi province, for instance, there has been an estimated 90% decline in numbers since the 1980s.
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