Beijing, Jan 13 (IANS) A large group of rare Phayre's leaf monkeys has been spotted in southwest China, an animal expert said.

More than 200 of the leaf monkeys, a Class I state-protected wild animal, were seen by volunteers in Yunnan's Dehong Dai and Jingpo earlier in January.

It was the biggest group ever spotted in China, Xinhua news agency reported. "A group of Phayre's langurs usually consists of no more than 30, so the latest discovery is really unusual," Chen Jianwei, with Beijing Forestry University said.

Phayre's leaf monkeys, also known as Phayre's langurs, scatter in western Yunnan and in eastern and northern Myanmar.

They usually live in forests which are upto 2,700 metres above sea level, said Chen.

Files compiled in the 1980s show less than 2,000 Phayre's langurs lived in Yunnan. By the end of the 20th century, logging had further reduced their habitat and their number.