500 incredibly rare monkeys found deep in Vietnam forest

Prior to the discovery, fewer than 1,000 grey-shanked doucs were known to exist, making them one of the 25 most endangered primates on the planet.

The gray-shanked douc (Pygathrix cinerea) is a heartbreakingly lovely creature – just look at that face. Found only in Vietnam, the poor primates have had a rough time of it. The species is listed on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered and is included in the organization’s listing of The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates. Poor things. Everything was fine until ol’ homo sapiens came in to rain on the parade. The main threats to the grey-shanked douc are deforestation, habitat fragmentation and hunting. Doucs fall victim to the illegal wildlife trade and are hunted for bushmeat, traditional medicine and the pet trade. What the (insert profanity here) is wrong with us?

Gray-shanked monkeys© Nguyen Van Truong/FFI

By most accounts there were thought to be fewer than 1000 individuals left, but in a wonderful turn of events, a whole host of them was discovered during a field survey by Fauna & Flora International (FFI). The find of at least 500 grey-shanked doucs in Kon Tum Province, deep in the forests of Vietnam’s Central Highlands, almost doubles the known global population of the enigmatic primate.

“To discover a large population of one of Vietnam’s most rare and precious animals is truly an honor,” says Trinh Dinh Hoang, who led the survey team.

Dr. Ben Rawson , FFI Country Director, says, “This really is Vietnam’s monkey; it is found nowhere else. This new population provides hope, but the species is sadly still on the brink of extinction – something that FFI is working hard to prevent.”

Gray-shanked monkeys© Nguyen Van Truong/FFI

FFI has been working in Vietnam for almost two decades focusing on conservation of Vietnam’s native primate species, working with both the government and communities.

Russell A. Mittermeier, Chairman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Primate Specialist Group, says, “Vietnam is now considered to have 11 Critically Endangered primate species, and therefore represents a priority for conservation in Southeast Asia.” Adding, “Historical large-scale forest loss and persecution of primates for the illegal wildlife trade has resulted in the current situation requiring last-ditch conservation efforts in many cases.”

But even with their numbers doubled, doucs are still listed as Critically Endangered. “It will take the combined efforts of government, local communities, civil society, scientists and donors to ensure the long-term survival of this species, but this is a step in the right direction,” added Rawson.

Gray-shanked monkeys© Nguyen Van Truong/FFI

One can hope that this isn’t the last secret cluster of endangered primates. How wonderful if whole populations had been escaping notice, hiding out in the depths of deep forests, going about their primate lives. But even if so, we still need to do everything we can to support conservation of the ones who've been counted and who are so direly threatened.

Visit FFI for more on their work and how to help.

Tags: Endangered Species | Vietnam


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