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My planned PhD project (2005-2009) is primarily aimed at enhancing the still rudimentary knowledge of the behavioral ecology of an unusual primate, the black-and-white snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti). This is one of the few primate taxa to inhabit temperate high-altitude environments. Little is known about the dynamics of their social system and the underlying behavioral mechanisms. Their multilayered social organisation with huge group sizes appears to be one of the most complex of any non-human primate. Scans are taken to study time allocation patterns and feeding behavior as well as social behavior. Furthermore, video analysis is used to study group size and composition as well as spatiotemporal characteristics of grouping patterns. Seasonality is expected to have a profound influence on their behavior and ecology. Further possible research topics are ranging behaviour and the timing of birth. Gathering more information about the behavior and ecology of an understudied taxonomic group will undoubtedly contribute to update current socioecological theory which is biased towards easier to observe primate species. Moreover, knowledge of behavioral ecology is important where careful strategic conservation management is needed. R. bieti is one of the most endangered primate species living in a highly fragmented habitat. The conservation-related part of my project deals with assessing the impact of increasing human disturbance on the animal population. Research will be carried out in a temperate, high-elevation forest at Baima Snow Mountain Nature Reserve in Yunnan (PRC).
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