Forest restoration set to conserve grey-shanked monkeys in Vietnam province

|     Cong Thanh     |

QUANG NAM, Vietnam (Viet Nam News/ANN) – The central province in Vietnam is seeking sustainable solutions for the conservation of critically endangered primates living in a primary forest, while creating stable livelihoods for log farmers in Tam My Tay Commune – which is home to 50 endangered grey-shanked douc langurs monkeys.

An 120 hectare-area of acacia log farms provides significant income for 40 households living in the commune, but the development of log farms has pushed the endangered primates to the brink of extinction.

A plan to transform the livelihoods of farmers while promoting eco-tour development, reforestation and gardening has been developed by the local authorities as a measure to restrict human activities around the habitat of the endangered primates.

Log farmers would suffer losses if their acacia farms are located in the area of strict conservation for the endangered langurs.

This means that acacia farms will be gradually replaced by native trees or timber that provide food and shelter for the animals.

A grey-shanked douc langur on a tree in Hon Do Mountain in Nui Thanh district of Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. A population of 50 langurs is in danger of extinction due to the expansion of log farms and human activities. – VIET NAM NEWS

Vo Ngoc Danh, 56, from Dong Co village, said he could earn VND500 million (USD23,000) from his 10-hectare acacia log farm after a four-year period, and a livestock and fruit farm added to his coffers.

“Acacia log farms provide major incomes for villagers living near the mountains of Hon Do, Hon Ong, Duong Bong and Duong Ban Lau. The langurs – which were found living in the natural forest area in 1997 – are safe living with the community,” Danh said.

“We support the local conservation plan for the endangered species, but we need to adapt to other trades to make a living,” he said.

Vice Chairman of Viet Nam Zoological Association, Professor Dang Vu Khoi, said small primary forests must be expanded to offer food and safe habitat for the langurs.

“It’s very urgent. The species will die out soon due to the rapid development of log farms and harmful human activities in the area,” Khôi said

“The 30-hectare natural forest will not be enough for the endangered langurs to reproduce.”

Professor Dr Dang Huy Huynh said the urgent conservation of the grey-shanked douc langurs and expansion of forests would help Quang Nam Province set up a unique eco-tour and ecological education and research centre in Vietnam.

He said the primate is now only seen in central Viet Nam, and its population is roughly 1,000 individuals.

In a recent survey, at least four herds with a total of 50 langurs were recorded living in the 25-hectare primary forest.

Director of GreenViet Tran Huu Vy said the grey-shanked douc langur species was isolated by surrounding acacia log farms.

“Log farms separated the green corridor for the langur families for moving for food in natural forest – which supplies 75 per cent of food for the primates,” Vy said.

“The langurs could only live in their ‘small houses’ (natural forest from 50m to 150m wide) on the top of mountains,” he said.

He added that the langurs could not swing through log farms to approach the protective forest of Phu Ninh at 10km away.

Dr Ha Thang Long, Head of the Representative Office of the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Vietnam, who is an authority on grey-shanked douc langur studies, suggested the 25-hectare area of natural forest should be expanded from Tam My Tay Commune to the riverhead forest of Phu Ninh and Tra Bong in neighbouring Quang Ngai Province to create a safe corridor for langurs.

He said it naturally helps build up a larger conservation zone for the endangered primates and forest in combination with a rich biodiversity and research centre of langurs.

Long said around 1,000 grey-shanked doucs were recorded living in forests of five provinces, including Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Kon Tum and Gia Lai. Gia Lai’s National Kon Ka Kinh Park preserves the largest number of langurs. He said the grey-shanked douc langur – which is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list as one of the world’s 25 critically endangered primates – could be seen in Vietnam.

An area of 150 hectare on forest restoration in the area would help establish a conservation site of the langur population.

Jeroen van der Horst, an expert from the German International Co-operation Development (GIZ), said urgent protection is an effective way in saving 50 individuals of the douc population in the fragmented area.

“The natural habitat of 150 hectares should be the core zone where there is enough food for the doucs and where they can feel at ease so they can produce a new generation,” Horst said.

“The community and the responsible government administrations should come to an agreement where the acacia plantations in the core zone are ‘given back’ to nature in order to restore the douc habitat. So, the legal owners should be compensated in a good way and the government administration should ensure a long-term conservation of this area,” he said.

He said the right forest restoration model for this area is very important in setting up a good habitat for the douc population in the near future.