Ecotourism Driving Tibetan Monkeys to Infanticide

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
July 20, 2007

Visitors are loving Tibetan monkeys to death in one of China's most popular tourism centers, according to a new long-term study.

Researchers found that the start of tourism in the Mount Huangshan Scenic Area in Anhui Province coincided with skyrocketing infant mortality in the reserve's Tibetan macaques.

The park's monkeys are confined to a restricted range and regularly compete for corn in a small open area within view of spectators.

The combination of these factors likely triggered adult aggression toward each other and toward their young, the study found.

As a result, less than half of the infants survive into adulthood.

The results suggest that ecotourism can be deadly when not managed properly, said study co-author Carol Berman.

"I think a lot more work needs to be done on how ecotourism impacts the animals," said Berman, an anthropologist at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Results of the 19-year study will be published in the October edition of the International Journal of Primatology.

Increased Aggression

Berman's team studied the Tibetan macaques for six years before ecotourism began in 1991.

They also collected data while tourists visited the animals between 1992 and 2004, including a span in 2003 when tourism was suspended.

Infant mortality had been low prior to ecotourism and was primarily caused by disease, the team found.

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