Week 14 Elves of the Plateau and Corridor Forests

Yunnan panorama 150 x 50 cm Niamh Cunningham 倪芙瑞莲 2014


On the edge of the Yunling Mountain forest,  Dali,  Yunnan, there is a family of 150 golden snub-nosed monkeys. Across this forest to the south, there is smaller community of  20 monkeys . The two groups of monkeys were originally a family, but were trapped on two  ” forest islands” separated by a human development. If the two monkey populations continue to be isolated, a likely outcome includes inbreeding, reduction in genetic diversity  and increased risk of extinction of the Yunnan golden monkey.  

Yunnan Golden snub noses Monkeys photo credit The Nature Conservancy 

The Yunnan Golden Monkey also called the black and white snub nosed monkey because of an evolutionary curiosity of missing nasal bones . The pug nosed primate has other special features of bright red lips which is a status symbol for high ranking males.

The Yunnan snub – nosed monkey is one of 25 most emdangered primates in the world. It is unique to China with more than 3,000 scattered in Tibet and Yunnan. Due to their extremely high altitude habitat , their very existence is a marker for biodiversity. The forest that attracts them provides shelter for other rare animals and plants .


The corridor of trees planted to connect the forest islands include Huashan Pine and Spruce. At high altitudes spruce which is resistant to dry and cold climates is unusual for its longetivity living beyond millenia. At low altitudes the spruce is planted with Chinese Huashan pine , this pine is native to China which conserves water and prevents wind erosion.  


There is a new protection network bringing government protection management agencies, conservation groups like TNC (The Nature Conservancy) , Ant Forest,  social welfare organizations and scientific research institutions. Combined these agencies will monitor monkey populations and habitat health, establish a patrol system to prevent poaching and illegal logging,  restore and reconnect the increasingly patchy landscape. The partners will also educate local communities about conservation and lead community development. Protecting the golden monkey will benefit many other plants and animals across the entire ecosystem.


Note: Ant Forest is an Alipay mobile App and is recognized for inspiring consumers to reduce their carbon footprint , resulting in China’s largest private sector tree planting initiative. It was awarded the UN’s highest environmental honour Champions of the Earth award 2019 .

If you have experience using the Ant Forest app I would love to hear from you . I hope to write separate blog on Ant Forest in the coming weeks .


Link 1 Alipay mobile  app

Link 2 Nature Org 



I would like to thank Zhao Mingshi of the Nature Conservancy(TNC)  ( Forest Carbon) for directing me to the above  story.  


Memory Palace of Trees 2020 is an ecological art practice which invites your participation to tell a story (or give some kind of information) about trees. It is a social enquiry of how to live better with the planet and with people. You are cordially invited to tell me your story of a tree or trees. (email : niamh@niamhcunningham.com) I would love to hear from you . Each week throughout 2020 a story will be posted with either an artwork already made or perhaps your story will inspire me to make a new work!