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Red-Shanked Douc

Doucs.org is a website by GreenViet Biodiversity Conservation Center, an award winning Vietnamese NGO well-known for red-shanked douc conservation work in Son Tra Nature Reserve. This website aims to introduce local and international community to the red-shanked douc langur, a critically endangered species dubbed "the queen of primates", their plight and ways that you can help them.

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10 Vulnerable Douc Families

Who are the 10 vulnerable douc families?

Most of the sightings of red-shanked douc in Son Tra are the ten families that dwell at the perimeter of the reserve, as illustrated in our graphic map below. After years of research and education activities, these families, although might deceptively appear identical to the others, are unmistakable in the eyes of GreenViet’s researchers. Why are they so special?

  • These families are the most observable in Son Tra
  • Thanks to their visibility, they have been an endless source of inspiration for numerous local and international photographers and film crews including the BBC and National Geographic.
  • Families such as the The Models, The Wises, The Upsets are particularly well-known and widely adored by more than 3000 Danang’s people who have joined GreenViet’s I Love Son Tra Journey.
  • Their beauty makes thousands of others become infatuated with them only through photos and stories on the Internet
  • They stir up the curiosity and desire for learning in children who come to visit Son Tra
The road to wildlife conservation among Vietnamese community is still under-travelled. But now, the love for nature starts with red-shanked douc.

Why do they need my help?

Despite all this, these 10 families are facing an unprecedented risk: their home ranges overlap the areas where a massive development plan has been proposed to the Prime Minister. According to local experts, three main natural habitats of the doucs will be destroyed if the plan moved forward as a way for Danang city to extract economic values from Son Tra. In addition to existing risks to the red-shanked douc species in Son Tra including diseases, accidents with human, poaching, lack of local awareness, the aftermath of possible habitat loss adds a new level of threat particularly to these 10 vulnerable families.

Meet the 10 vulnerable families

7

The Naives

10

The Vulnerables

8

The Upsets

5

The Models

8

The Athletics

6

The Tenders

9

The Show-offs

6

The Wises

12

The Long Face

5

The Scar Face

The Naives

Our family loves the leaves of Peltophorum pterocarpum tree, or lim set in Vietnamese, that grow along roadsides more than anything in the entire Son Tra forest. From April to June is an unmissable feast for us, for it is when Peltophorum pterocarpum trees produce delicious fragile yellow flowers.1

During this time, all of us find it almost impossible to resist showing up dangerously close to the side of the road, where these trees grow. People have found us spending up to two hours feeding on leaves nonchalantly before the eyes of local passers-by who were standing just a few steps away. The neighboring douc families call us naive for putting ourselves in the line of fire just because of some “tree leaves”. They keep telling us awful stories of other doucs being harassed by human in different ways: noise, teasing and even worse, hunting. I mean, they got some good points, but is it too much to have some faith in the goodness of human? All we ever want to do is just to savour these mouth-watering yellow leaves in peace.

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The Tenders

We’re so blessed to be able to settle down in one of the coolest areas in Son Tra, underneath which an ancient stream flows, providing fresh air to keep us cool everyday. Thanks to the pleasant weather year-round, calmness and gentleness run in our blood. Let me tell you more about our family.

Including me, the father, our family has 6 members. But my newborn son of 6 months is the center of attention. From dusk till dawn, as mischievous and playful as those in his age, he practices climbing, moving on tree branches and especially, he loves jumping on his siblings. But the only time his brother and sister slightly raise their voice at him is when he ventures a bit too far from his mother. They just want to make sure the little one always comes back to his mother for a safe embrace and warm milk. To avoid stress for the mother, sometimes his auntie (my second wife) shares the family’s responsibility and carries the little one for a while. This is a great learning opportunity for her to gain experience in maternal skills so that she can look after her own child one day. Sound like a happy family don’t you think?

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The Vulnerables

Don’t you just hate it when your noisy neighbor turns up loud music at the middle of the night? How do you deal with this? What? You think we can just knock on our their door and ask them to behave? Then you know far too little about douc’s problems. Here’s the story.

Standing from the road above, you can see a sandbank protruding from the foot of the mountain, kissing the sea. This is a gathering spot adjacent to our home where people often come and go, build campfires and stay overnight partying, singing and ruining our sleep. We, the parents, are very worried about our little children who are still too young to know about the harsh reality in which some humans hunt us for traditional medicine and food, and kidnap our young ones to sell as pets. Living this close to human exposes our little children to threats beyond their imagination. With growing tourism in Son Tra, we’re living in distress at the prospect that we will have to migrate deeper into the forest and abandon our home. 

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The Upsets

We don’t need luxury hotels, fancy resorts. Our home is already beautiful decorated with pinkish Bauhinia flowers that bloom in July and August. But even more beautiful than the flowers in summer are the three girls in our family who are about to reach 4 years old, the age of maturity.

This is certainly a great joy to us, as to any parents who can watch the journey of their children growing up from the first days. But let me tell you a secret: I’ve been agonizing over the fact that my family might have to split up. Reluctantly of course. Because the male-only douc groups (also known as bachelor groups) in the area are trying to seduce my girls into leaving the family to start a new one. A terrible idea I have to agree with you. While this is natural, will the other male doucs be capable of protecting my girls before threats such as accidents when crossing the road? Will they be wise enough to sidestep the snares and dodge bullets? Have you got any solutions for us?

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The Athletics

“Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee”, I remember hearing that quote somewhere that was meant to be an advice for athletes. But for so long, it has been our motto, the Athletics’ motto.

We boast the best long jump athletes you can find in Son Tra, and our trademark jumps you can see when we travel far to forage. A majestic 6-meter leap through the air, followed by loud cracking sounds of broken branches that leave many smaller animals nearby in a state of fright. I know the photographers have a few snaps of us in mid air. But we don’t perform the real Olympics jumps for them. Only those who venture deep into the forest, like the researchers at GreenViet, have seen us at our best. How did we become such accomplished jumpers you may ask? Our home is made up of trees of different heights distanced from one another, leaving us no choice but to become athletes at birth.

The younger ones though need to be carried by their mothers, who demand extra caution for the small ones when we travels together. The whole family moves through the forest smooth like a symphony orchestrated by the father douc – the most experienced jumper in Son Tra. 

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The Models

Of all the douc families in Son Tra, we’re proud to be the one which gets its pictures taken the most. We’ve heard that thanks to our unintended collaboration with photographers, many of their work have been featured in international photo contests, some even won first prize. Why is that?

Because we tend to climb up to the canopy to eat, groom and rest, sometimes for up to an hour instead of lurking behind trees like the others. We sometimes spend ages resting almost motionlessly on the canopy as a way for our enormous belly to digest leaves. Our firm bodies, elegant poses, striking colors and chilled-out personalities give photographers the chance to snap picture after picture. Little kids love it too when they can see in full view the whole figure of red-shanked douc, which are often either far away, concealed by the leaves, or camouflaged by the forest. 

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The Wises

“The Wises is a medium-sized family of 8 members who used to live next to my family, but now lives high up in Son Tra. Up there, the canopy is enveloped year-round by a thick layer of moist and chilling mist at dusk and dawn.

The leader of the family is, frankly, a coward who never dares to face me or the Scar Face (one of the most notorious figures around here). He would flee almost instantaneously the moment he hears us approach. That’s probably why he’s led his family to live so high up in the mountain to avoid confrontation with us. But I have to give him credit for that wise move. Because now his family nestles in a competition-free part of the forest where the food is more than abundant. In the summer, when the Cho Chi tree (Parashorea chinensis) produces new leaves and the forest appears to put on a new coat of pink-red, the Wises can just stay put and have everything they need at their doorstep. But with the recent construction development plans, things are looking quite gloomy for them.”

– The Long Ugly Face family on an interview about his old neighbor. 

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The Show-offs

We are the Show-offs, living right next door to the Molaskys who was the first douc family to get adopted and named. Although our family is small, only 5 doucs, but did you know we are quite famous on social media? 

The locals call our neighborhood “the boulders”. This is where huge boulders got turned into playground for the two families. In the morning and afternoon, while the kids groom, chase each other and fight as they do, the older ones would climb up there to sunbathe and lounge about for hours if undisturbed. But the reason why we’re called the Show-off family is because sometimes the parents in both families choose these rocks to act as our private bedroom for mating. The quarrels, the fights and the jealousy, are all settled on the boulders instead of in privacy. Photos of our private times are widely celebrated and passed around on social media. How creepy can humans get? But in all fairness, thanks to our showing-off character, more people have the chance to observe us in the flesh and even more get to see our photos on social media. Showing-off isn’t always bad is it?

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The Scar Face

Recognizable for the scar on his left cheek, my father is very popular among GreenViet members and I Love Son Tra Journey’s participants who often come and pay us a visit every Sunday afternoon.

I have no idea when or when he, my father, got his scar, but all I know is that the scar is evidence of the power that he exercises over the other families. Other doucs have the utmost respect for the Scar Face and for our family even though there are only five of us: him, two mothers and us two juveniles. But I, being his closest, know he has his worries. We are growing up so fast and one day will have to split to start our own family. By then, he will be alone by himself when the bachelor doucs show up and try to steal his wives, forcing him out of his own family. But even more dangerously, he will become defenseless and vulnerable before external threats from humans.

While the latter is only part of nature, the former scenario we can work to prevent.

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The Long Face

I take pride in the ugly name that they have given me, for it is a proof of our established identity among the red-shanked douc community in Son Tra: fearsome and tough. I’m the the Long Face, the leader of my family.

We laugh over GreenViet’s effort to pinpoint the number of members in our family, because of the sheer number of us. The notoriety that goes with our name is owed to our ability to disrupt the silence of the forest when our battalion of red shanks marches by. The five boys in the family have inherited my aggression and muscle, and take every chance they have to cause a scene when unfortunate juveniles from other families step into our territory. Thanks to these mischievous sidekicks of mine, our family has won each and every fight over the sweet nutritious fresh buds in the area. And hence we have easily taken control of this neighborhood. But the doucs are the least of my concern. Unlike the other doucs who find the sheer size of our family dreadful, I know some opportunistic humans will find this an easy target to make profit from hunting our species. 

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