On September 27, 2012, I was conducting field research in the Renzhouhai Area of Sichuan Province.
Scarcely had I left our vehicle and taken a few steps when I heard a high-pitched voice coming from the roadside ditch. It sounded like a rodent squealing after receiving a snakebite. Upon closers inspection, it turned out to be a lone Tibetan Macaque.
It was and is highly unusual to find a monkey on their own as they typically form tight social groups. A monkey on their own usually depicts an injury or illness, so I quickly picke up and assessed his condition. Much to my relief, he had four limbs and with my naked eyes I could not see any other problems. Now I had to decide what to do. I could not simple leave him in the ditch; he was too young and immature. With no mother in sight, he could starve, freeze to death, or perhaps be eaten by predators like martens or foxes. I fed him a bottle of milk and rearranged the clothes in my backpack to make a nest for the little Tibetan Macaque. I planned to search for his family after finishing my work for the day and set out with the tiny passenger on my back. After walking for about 10 minutes, the screeches of monkeys reached my ears from somewhere along the hillside. Was his family looking for him? Perhaps he had gone astray from his family group. Returning him to his group in the wild was preferable to taking him into the care of humans. I did not want to give up the chance to return him to his natural environment even if it was only a gleam of hope
Carefully I lifted the little one out of my bag and placed him on the side of the road hoping this would make it easier for his troop to spot him and to take him back if he had simply gotten lost. I then took some photos of him and drew back slowly, retreating step by step, so as not to interfere with the potential reunion. Unexpectedly, the little creature had grown fond of me and tried to follow me. Though I was touched by his trust in me, I worried that it would interfere with his successful return to the troop. I quickly ran and hid myself in a nearby thicket, but the poor monkey cried so loudly it nearly broke my heart. On the upside, the louder he shouted, the greater chance he had of his family finding him.
About half an hour later, his group finally reached him. Five adult Tibetan Macaques welcomed him back. I hope this little one may forget what happened to him that day and live safely and happily for the rest of his life.