One day in 2002, wildlife photographer Ding Kuanliang set off into the deep forests of the Qinling Mountains in northwestern China with the aim of shooting giant pandas in the wild.
Instead, he found something unexpected but equally special — a community of golden snub-nosed monkeys.
“They were so beautiful with their light-blue noses. I was just lucky to be able to capture their elegant and flexible movements,” Ding said.
Snub-nosed monkeys, including golden- and black-haired varieties, can be found in central and southern parts of China, although there is no firm data on how many are left in the wild.
They are an endangered species and have been given first-class protection status by the Chinese government.
“For 14 years, since that trip, I’ve been addicted to searching for golden snub-nosed monkeys and have traveled to mountains in Shaanxi, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces to find them,” said Ding, who is from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.
The world of golden snub-nosed monkeys through his lens is warm and full of humanity.
“In 2009, I came across a female monkey holding her dead baby,” he said, recalling another trip to the Qinling Mountains, a vast range in southern Shaanxi province. “She sat in the same place for 12 days, just combing the baby’s hair.
“I watched this scene through the telescope every day. It was very touching.”
It can sometimes, of course, be dangerous in the forest, and Ding has had a few lucky escapes when faced with poisonous snakes and bears. “But it’s all worth it,” he said.