Local residents unite to protect endangered langurs on Mount Cô Tô

May 27, 2024 - 08:11
There are currently 14 langurs in Mount Cô Tô, Tri Tôn District in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang.
The Indochinese silvered langurs in Mount Cô Tô, Tri Tôn District in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang.— Photo nhandan.vn

AN GIANG — Trần Văn Thành who lives near Mount Cô Tô in Tri Tôn District in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang has been caring for a group of Indochinese silvered langurs (Trachypithecus Germaini) for many years.

Thành said in 1996, while he was in the forest gathering vegetables, he stumbled upon a langur hiding in a tree.

“Its fur was a blend of grey matching the mountain rocks and forest trees, making it quite difficult to spot,” he said.

Initially, he mistook it for a monkey, which were abundant in the mountains, but upon closer inspection, he noticed its longer, larger tail and more beautiful fur.

After that, the langur disappeared but whenever Thành went into the forest to gather vegetables or fruits, he always kept an eye out to try and spot the creature.

One day, when he encountered a langur again, he did not chase or trap it, the Nhân dân (People) online newspaper reported.

Instead, he spoke gently, calling it 'Mai, Mai' and tried to entice it by offering bananas, jackfruit, instant noodles and bread.

At first, the langur remained wary and kept its distance, but eventually, it grew bolder, coming down from the trees to collect the food that Thành threw to it. When it became even more used to him, it would come closer to take the food.

It was a male Indochinese silvered langur.

Shortly afterwards, while Thành was in his house near Vồ Hội Lớn area, he heard noises and went outside where the langur had arrived along with a group of five individuals, including two young ones.

He went back inside to get some packets of instant noodles for them to eat and after that the visitors would come regularly to his home and ask for food.

Gradually, local residents and forest rangers knew about Thành and his story with the langurs.

When the forest rangers went up the mountain to check, they saw the group of animals with grey-faced, black-legged fur, confirming that they were Indochinese silvered langurs, a rare and endangered species listed in the Việt Nam Red Book.

The forest rangers told local residents about the importance of protecting the rare animals, prohibiting hunting, trapping or any form of captivity.

Aware of their responsibility, the local residents have been voluntarily taking care of the langurs since then.

Whenever they spotted poachers with guns, traps, or anyone who might hunt the langurs, they would report to them to the authorities.

Nguyễn Thành Liêm, head of the Forest Protection and Nature Conservation Office of the provincial Forest Protection Division said that the langurs were carefully protected so far.

Since their appearance, there had not been any resident hunting them for meat or capturing them.

The langurs often returned to the areas around Vồ Hội Lớn area, Vồ Hội Nhỏ area and Tiên Yard, which were the highest points on the mountain to ask for food.

So the forest protection division has sent food, including fruits and instant noodles, to Thành, so that he could give the food to the langurs for years.

Additionally, protection efforts include regular patrols and checks to prevent hunting and trapping the langurs.

According to Thành, there are currently 14 langurs in the mountain.

The province has 37 mountains and hills but Mount Cô Tô is the only place where this species of langur resides.

Extinction risk

The Indochinese silvered langur. — Photo kiemlamangiang.gov.vn

The provincial Natural Resources and Environment Department said that it had six individual langurs in 2014 and nine in 2020, all living on the mountain.

That is an ideal habitat for them, with natural forests consisting of large and small trees, combined with shrubs and leafy bushes. The mountain also has caves with small hollows and shady canopies that the langurs can shelter in.

However, with the still extremely low number of existing populations, the risk of extinction is very high, so they need protection at every level.

Liêm said the current worry was finding another langur group to bring to the mountain to mate with the existing langurs.

“They are now the only langur group in the mountain, so prolonged inbreeding may lead to genetic stagnation and a very high risk of extinction,” he said.

Under the 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature, Indochinese silvered langurs are 'critically endangered'.

Under Government Decree No. 06/2019/NĐ-CP, the langur species is classified under Group IB - endangered forest animals.

In the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the species is listed in Appendix II.— VNS