What if you found the best cup of coffee on the way to work – do you think you might stop and enjoy a cup? Would you go there often? Would you tell your friends? You have an equally rare treat on Son Tra mountain – one of the most beautiful and rare animals on the planet, the Red-shanked Douc langur– 20 minutes from where you live in DaNang.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF RED-SHANKED DOUC
For the Douc, the day starts before the sun comes up just after 4 AM – it’s the best part of the day, its cool, the new leaves have just come out – so they are sweet and tasty and everyone is usually in a good mood after a long sleep.
That is, -unless you are one of the Douc moms and have a baby. Then you might be grumpy – she has to feed the baby all the time and carry it everywhere and it makes the moms very tired. The group leader, the “Dad” of the family group, stays busy protecting the group – that’s his job. We Douc spend a lot of time eating, ‘cause we eat mostly leaves, being folivores, it takes a lot of leaves to make us full.
You’re looking at my belly aren’t you? Don’t stare it’s rude. I know it looks like we have fat bellies – well, your belly would stick out too if you had four stomachs! Yep, just like cows- we have a four-part stomach to help us digest the cellulose in the leaves.
I know, but some people wonder why our tummies stick out – when our cousin primates are skinny. It’s all about what you eat – we ate leaves, so we have beautiful, round, voluptuous tummies!”
Talking about beautiful, did you know that we’re called the Queens of primate?
Yup, that’s because we like to dress extravagantly in our maroon-red stockings, white gloves that meet our forearms, and our golden face is framed by white fluff with a pair of big brown almond eyes and soft powder blue eyelids. Why stockings and gloves you asked? Well, we are very athletic so we prefer fashionable active wear. You would wear gloves and stocking too if you were aerial specialists like us. We live high up in the canopy and we must stay very agile to leap from branch to branch. Did you know we can leap up to 6 meters and never miss our target?
Hum, I got a little carry away there. Let’s go back to my day.
So after we eat, which usually last until it starts getting warm, a few hours after sunrise – it is then nap-time. We usually, move deeper into the forest, where it is very shady and cool to find a good napping spot. Of course, the younger kids like to play and chase each other through the trees. We very rarely travel on the ground, it is too dangerous – in dense forest we are pretty safe. Sometimes, young Douc can get killed by hawks or eagles when they climb to the tree tops – so Dad and the moms keep a close eye on them when they are small.
While we settle in for our late-morning nap – we spend a good amount of time “grooming” each other – we make sure our group members are clean of bugs that can hurt us or give us diseases. This grooming activity makes us a very close family unit and keeps us healthy.
Once it starts to get a little cooler in the afternoon – we begin to search for food trees again. We must eat very quickly for a couple hours to get a full-belly of leaves. Once we are full, our group will find a safe place deeper in the forest to nest for the night at around 6pm. And that pretty much sums up my day. Pretty sweet, don’t you think so? We love it.
I’ve lived in Son Tra all of my life. There’re a lot of us here, 230 families when I last count. I heard that we have relatives in Laos and Cambodia, but I’ve never met them. I’m not sure why they haven’t visited us, we’ve got everything here, beautiful undisturbed primary forest, lovely beaches, and lots of trees with fruit, flowers, seeds and yummy leaves. Son Tra is peaceful too — human’s come here sometimes and mostly just look or point cameras at us. A few are here to hunt us, but we stay up high in the canopy so we’re not too worried about their traps. My biggest concern is losing our homes.
I have cousins who live on the other side, near Tien Sa – their homes were torn down last year– all of a sudden, the trees disappeared and there was noise everywhere. Nobody could know what to do when all the trees are gone. It gave me nightmares when I heard about it. It is quiet over there now, but the trees will not come back for many, many cycles – it will take much longer than any of us will ever live to have trees big enough for us to live in again. They say that the danger has passed – I hope they are right. I love Son Tra the way it is and I never want to leave.