Rare Endangered Primate Spotted in Vietnam

A new group of critically endangered Delacour's langurs includes juveniles and infants, indicating the animals on the brink are breeding.

A new group of critically endangered primates has been spotted in Vietnam, raising hopes the rare creatures may not be wiped out in the next decade as scientists had feared.

The Delacour's langur, black and white with a full face of whiskers, is indigenous to Vietnam, but their numbers have dwindled in recent years because of poaching and mining activity in the country's northern forests.

A team of scientists from Fauna and Flora International spotted a group of about 40 of the primates, mostly juveniles and infants, bringing their total population to less than 250.

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"It's great news for this particular species because had we not found this new population, they were in grave danger of being wiped out within a decade," spokeswoman for FFI in Vietnam, Akofa Wallace, told AFP Tuesday.

"The fact that they are breeding is brilliant news," she added.

FFI did not say where scientists spotted the langurs, whose habitat is threatened by mining activity in the area, including charcoal production.

They are also targeted by poachers who hunt them for meat, with their bones used for traditional medicine and their pelts for decoration.

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The primate was discovered in northern Vietnam in the 1930s by French scientist Jean Theodore Delacour, and are only found in Vietnam.

FFI country director Benjamin Rawson said urgent interventions were needed to protect the species, which numbered about 300 in the early 1990s.

"We continue to work alongside officials and local communities to ensure the Delacour's langur doesn't become this century's first primate extinction," Rawson said in a statement.

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The rare animals are protected under Vietnam's conservation laws, but critics say the legislation is not effectively enforced and poaching of rare or endangered species continues unchecked.

Vietnam is home to some of world's most endangered species, including the mountainous antelope Saola, the Red River giant soft-shell turtle and the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey.

Wild animals are under constant threat in the country, with their body parts in high demand for both food and traditional medicine.

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The list of the 25 most endangered primates for 2014-2016 has just been released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The list is updated every two years, and the news is not good. "The world's primate species are at great risk with more than half of the species threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List," said Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN species survival commission, in a statement. Here we look at a sampling of the animals that had the unwelcome distinction of landing on the list. Shown here is the Roloway monkey (Cercopithecus diana roloway), from Ghana and central and eastern Côte d'Ivoire. Hunting by bushmeat traders has reduced the forest-dwelling primate's numbers to "small, isolated pockets," according to IUCN. "By any measure, the roloway monkey must be considered one of the most critically endangered monkeys in Africa and appears to be on the verge of extinction," IUCN notes in its report on the 2014-2016 list.

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The brown spider monkey (Ateles hybridus) lives in Colombia and Venezuela and is designated critically endangered thanks to habitat loss and fragmentation, hunting, and the pet trade.

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The Preuss's red colobus (Piliocolobus preussi) inhabits the moist, high-canopy forests of western Cameroon and southeastern Nigeria. Since the start of the 20th century, IUCN says this monkey has disappeared from most of its original range and that the biggest factors in its decline are due to bushmeat hunters and deforestation via logging, agriculture and infrastructure development.

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Brazil's northern brown howler monkey (Alouatta guariba guariba) faces primary threats from widespread forest loss and fragmentation throughout its range due to logging and agriculture. It may also be impacted by disease outbreaks such as yellow fever, IUCN says.

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New to the list is the Perrier's sifaka (Propithecus candidus), which is critically endangered and lives in northeast Madagascar. Population estimates vary between about 1,000 and 2,000 individuals remaining. It's not entirely clear yet how the animal's numbers dwindled to current counts but IUCN says it's likely due to climatic- and human-driven forest size fluctuations.

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