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Henan constructs bridges for monkeys to cross river
By Fang Sha ( chinadaily.com.cn )
Updated: 2014-08-15

Two bridges will serve as a passage for macaque monkeys to migrate over the Qinhe river in Jiyuan, Central China's Henan province. The bridges stretch over the Hekou Reservoir and are under construction, linking the mountains along the banks of the river.

The project needs at least 5 million yuan ($810,000). Many people criticized it as unwise and a waste of money shortly after the news spread online. But officials in charge from Henan province said that the construction of Hekou Reservoir disturbs Mother Nature, and that building bridges for the monkeys will repay her.

Hekou Reservoir, about 20 kilometers in length, sits within the Taihang Mountain Macaque Zone, a national nature reserve in Henan. Wang Xiangdong, director of the nature reserve's Jiyuan branch, said that the reservoir blocks the regular migration of macaques along the Qinhe river. To minimize damage to the macaques' natural living environment, ecological experts proposed constructing bridges before the reservoir was even built.

There are more than 3,000 macaques in 20 different groups throughout the city, over 500 among them living alongside the Qinhe riverbank. Wang said that there were four bridges used by both vehicles and animals before; however, after the reservoir came into use, all of them were abandoned and fell into the water.

"This is one of the first cases of wildlife conservation in China," said Li Heying, another official from the nature reserve. "The bridges are over 250 meters in length and 1.5 meters in width and will be able to carry 150 monkeys at a time."

The sight of monkeys walking on bridges as boats glide beneath them is soon to become a scene unique to the area.

Others still have doubt the monkeys will walk on the bridges willingly. Wang explained that after the bridges' construction, animal keepers from the nature reserve will guide the monkeys across them several times. That way, the monkeys will remember the passages.

Lu Jiqi, a professor at Zhengzhou University's macaque research center, said this case is similar to that of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway project, which included the construction of a bridge over the railway to ensure the safe migration of Tibetan antelopes.

Many people complain that Henan province should use the money to help children in local villages who have to wade through the river on foot to get to school. But Li Zhongyang, vice director of the nature reserve, said that because visitors to the area are increasing, the development of the macaques' living environment has reached a critical point.

"We should at least make sure they have a clear path to nature," he said.

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