A project to conserve the critically-endangered golden-headed langur on Cat Ba Island off Hai Phong City is under threat from growing tourism activities.
In the last century Cat Ba was home to thousands of golden-headed langurs, one of five endemic primate species in Vietnam.
The others are Delacour’s langur, snub-nosed monkey, gray-shanked douc langur, and eastern black crested gibbon.
However, with a growing human population on the island and poaching, the golden-headed langur, also known as the Cat Ba langur, gradually disappeared.
To save the species from extinction, Germany’s Allwetterzoo Münster collaborated with the Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations and Cat Ba National Park to launch a project to conserve the animals in 2000, when there were less than 50 left.
In 2019 the project was transferred to Germany’s Leipzig Zoo.
Mai Sy Luan, 41, who works for the project, said he spends 15 days every month making trips across the island to check on the langurs.
“I observe them and take notes of any changes. I have been doing this for 14 years now.”
There are now 76 of the langurs now, 19 more than five years ago.
Golden-headed langurs play on limestone mountains on Cat Ba Island off Hai Phong City. Photo by Neahga Leonard
However, Neahga Leonard, director of the project, said things are still “very fragile” because their population is small and frequently fragmented and disturbed by human impacts.
He said the langurs on Cat Ba Island have been in a specially protected area since 2006, yet their habitat has been constantly invaded by humans thanks to the increasing number of tourists and poor tourism management.
“Tourist boats come along with noise and pollution, creating extreme stress for the langurs.”
Staff have recorded more than a few times how the langurs retreated into caves due to the noise and disturbance caused by human visitors.
Normally, langurs prefer to go out to play and forage for food, which includes various types of fruits and leaves on large trees and limestone mountains near the beach.
They usually only go into the caves at night to sleep.
Healthy golden-headed langur will live for around 25 years on average, and a female has only one offspring after a six-month pregnancy.
The species is now listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
More than 2.3 million people visited Cat Ba Island last year, compared to 1.5 million in 2020 and 2.8 million in 2019, the year before Covid broke out.
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