Viet Nam News
Nguyễn Thanh Tú, 54, a former commanding officer of the Cà Roòng border post in the central province of Quảng Bình’s Tuyên Hóa District, is known far and wide as a discoverer and protector of langurs. He talks with Toàn Vũ about his passion.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us how you first connected with the langurs?
In early 2013 I travelled to Hung Sú forest to clear trees to grow sưa (a kind of valuable wood tree, scientifically named Dalbergia Tonkinensis Prain). When I was working, I suddenly heard a rustle over my head made by several black animals with long tales. I was so afraid that I intended to run away, but a memory flashed through my mind that I had been trained to recognise and protect valuable and rare animals.
When I returned home, searching Google, I confirmed that these animals are Hà Tĩnh langurs (stripe-headed black langurs found in the central province of Hà Tĩnh, scientifically called Trachypithecus hatinhénis).
This kind of animal is listed as an endangered species by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) exist only in restricted areas of central Việt Nam and eastern Laos.
The next day I went to the forest and was trying to contact the animals by playing music from my phone. They did not run away as they had before.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us about your relations with them?
In 2015, one of my neighbours ran to my home, telling me that he saw two langurs that had been killed in the Khe Đá forest.
I drove my motorbike and ran to the lime stone forest, but none of the dead langurs were there. I phoned the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park’s forest rangers for help.
A co-operation programme was urgently set up by the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, the Quảng Bình Province’s Department of Forest Rangers, Tuyên Hóa District and a number of scientists and researchers.
After a week of working hard, they counted 86 langurs, including 17 young ones.
Scientists estimated that the herd of langurs numbers about 115.
Later I was invited to a seminar on the langurs that was held in Quảng Bình’s Đồng Hới, where scientists, researchers and local authorities discussed ways to protect the animals.
I was very happy that from now on the langurs would be protected but I also worried that hunters await an opportunity to kill the animals.
Inner Sanctum: How did you contact the langur herd?
Since I started having close contact with them, I often brought them water on severely hot days. I usualy woke up very early in the morning to bring some 10 litres of water to the forest and poured it into rock holes for the langurs to drink.
The water was so heavy and I was so tired that I had to stop on a mountain slope.
But the hardest work is dealing with poachers, because they often watch the langurs in the afternoon and wait for them to return to a cave to sleep, where they catch them all.
One rainy night I had to rush to the forest to open the traps because I was informed that the hunters had set traps to catch the langurs.
Sometimes I hesitate because the night is so dark and there are poisonous snakes in the forest. But thinking of the langur herd that could be killed, I try my utmost.
Inner Sanctum: How do you deal with poachers?
I come to their house again and again to talk with them about how valuable the langurs are. I also told them that illegal hunting of these animals incurs criminal proceedings and jail time.
Several poachers have since given up illegal hunting and volunteered to join our group to protect the langurs, without payment.
Our work of protecting the langurs is much more effective now thanks to these former hunters because they know all the tricks of the poachers.
Inner Sanctum: What do the authorities think of your work?
The authorities praise us as a bright example of endangered animal protection for others to follow.
In 2015 the then Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng and provincial authorities awarded me a certificate for my contribution to protecting the langur herd.
We are very happy because Tuyên Hóa District has promised to build a guard house with better equipment for us this year. VNS