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Put up your doucs: Endangered monkeys fight off extinction in Vietnam


Tam Ky, Vietnam – A team of scientists from WWF and Conservation International (CI) has discovered the world’s largest known population of grey-shanked doucs, increasing the chances that the endangered monkey can be saved from extinction.

Recent surveys in central Vietnam recorded at least 116 of the tree-dwelling colobine monkeys. As only a small part of the area has been surveyed, scientists believe more doucs may be found in the adjacent forest.

“This is an exciting and important discovery because of the large size of the population,” said Barney Long, a conservation coordinator with WWF Vietnam.

“It’s very rare to discover a population of this size with such high numbers in a small area, especially for a species on the brink of extinction. This indicates that the population has not been impacted by hunting like all other known populations of the species.”

The grey-shanked douc (Pygathrix cinerea) is one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates and has only been recorded in the five central Vietnamese provinces — Quang Nam, Kon Tum, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh and Gia Lai. Fewer than 1,000 individuals are believed to still exist, and until now, only one other population with more than 100 animals was known.

Future protection
Like many primate species in Vietnam, the doucs face an uncertain future due to hunting and habitat loss. A 2006 IUCN assessment determined that 65 per cent of Vietnam’s primate taxa are Endangered or Critically Endangered, making the country one of the highest global priorities for primate conservation.

A WWF survey team first discovered the new douc population in August 2005 while studying the region for possible establishment of a new protected area. Two recent joint surveys in adjacent areas involving scientists from WWF’s Greater Mekong Program and Conservation International’s Indo-Burma Office revealed the significance of the find.

“When I gave up economics to pursue my passion for wildlife, I never dreamed that I would be able to make such an impact,” said Tran Khanh Duong, who led the most recent WWF–CI surveys. “I look forward to continuing my work at the site to ensure that this population is protected.”

The doucs are located in the proposed Central Quang Nam Species and Habitat Conservation Area. WWF and Conservation International support the establishment of a protected area here to protect the globally important population of monkeys, along with a herd of elephants that live in the lowland forests to the south.


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