Fauna & Flora International (FFI) held a press conference in Ho Chi Minh City to announce the discovery of a population of 500 gray-shanked doucs during a field trip in Kon Tum Province.
FFI is one of the world’s first conservation societies. It was founded in 1903 with the aim to act to conserve threatened species and ecosystems worldwide.
The organization has played a key role in establishing much of today’s global conservation infrastructure, including the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the World Wide Fund for Nature, and the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.
Doucs, or douc lagurs, are native to Southeast Asia and consist of three species: red-shanked, gray-shanked, and black-shanked doucs.
They generally have dappled grey bodies, black hands and feet, and white cheeks.
The gray-shanked douc lagur, binomially Pygathrix cinerea, is a douc species native to the Vietnamese provinces of Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Kon Tum, and Gia Lai. They feed primarily on leaves and live in tribes as large as fifty individuals, though tribe numbers have been greatly reduced to four to 15 individuals in recent years.
Gray-shanked doucs, along with three other primates native to Vietnam, have consistently been listed among the world’s 25 most endangered primates since 2000 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group, the International Primatological Society, and Conservation International.
The species is also on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, under the criteria of ‘critically endangered,’ with only 800 to 1,000 individuals left worldwide.
According to the FFI, the population of gray-shanked doucs in Vietnam is being threatened by deforestation, poaching, and the trafficking of wild animals for meat or medicine.
Trinh Dinh Hoang, head of the FFI’s survey team in Kon Tum, said it was truly a great honor for him and his team to discover such a large population of the most threatened species in Vietnam.
“This is a douc species native only to Vietnam and has not been found anywhere else,” said Dr. Benjamin Rawson, director of the FFI in Vietnam. "Their discovery brings us new hopes, but the sad fact remains that they are on the brink of extinction and the FFI is making every effort to prevent this from happening.”
“We are still heading in the right direction,” Rawson went on, “but it takes a joint effort from the government, local community, civil society, academia, and philanthropists to secure the survival of these doucs in the long run.”
According to the FFI, apart from the gray-shanked doucs, the three other primates on the list of the world’s 25 most endangered species are the golden-headed lagurs (60-70 individuals), the Delacour’s lagurs (under 250 individuals), and the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (from 200 to over 250 individuals).
The list serves to underline the primates with highest chances of extinction in order to attract public attention and urge governments to take more essential actions to conserve these animals, according to Russell Mittermeier, deputy CEO of Conservation International.