Xiang Zuofu, a professor of wildlife conservation at Central South University of Forestr
y and Technology in Hunan province and one of the leading authors of the study, said the phenomenon called allom
aternal nursing is not unusual among mammals including humans, but it’s the first evidence in an Old World monkey.
“Without the nanny, the golden snub-nosed monkeys might have become extinct,” Xia
ng said in an interview on Friday. “Golden monkeys are conceived every two years and they bear only one bab
y a time. If there is no allomaternal nursing, the survival rate of their infants would only be 20 to 30 percent.”
However, the rate may soar to over 50 percent under natural conditions when offspring also are nursed by other female monkeys, he said.
Golden snub-nosed monkeys live in high-elevation temperate forests in Hubei, Sichuan, Shaanxi an
d Gansu provinces. The cold, five-month-long winters, with nighttime temperatures easily dropping belo
w freezing, pose great challenges for them in raising infants, as do strong seasonal changes in the availability of food.