Animals: On the trail of the most beautiful monkey in the world

Some say he looks like Santa Claus. Others compare it to a colorful stuffed animal. The red-legged dock is one of the most exotic primates on Earth.

Glorious creature will come a long time. Although it comes in many colors, it knows how to hide well in the dense jungle of the Son Tra Peninsula on the coast of central Vietnam. But then the animal reveals itself: its long white tail hangs from a branch and peeks out from among the foliage. Then red-brown legs, light-colored arms, black hands, and an orange face with a white beard are shown in the picture. Finally, it appears in all its glory: the red-legged dock, one of the rarest and most beautiful primates on Earth.

In English, its name sounds somewhat more catchy: “Red-shanked Douc Langur,” or “Douc” to connoisseurs of Vietnam. The people of Son Tra simply call him the “distinguished monkey”. This fits, because what could be more special than this monkey?

According to estimates, only about 2,000 specimens survive on the planet, says zoologist Anthony Parker. Most live on the Son Tra Peninsula near Da Nang and in the neighboring country of Laos, says the 28-year-old Briton. He takes care of the animals in the rainforest around the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort. Four families roam the wilderness around the hotel, an estimated 60 to 70 specimens in total. They share a paradise habitat with macaques, colorful sunbirds, red-bellied squirrels, venomous snakes and huge butterflies.

Just indifferent to people

Using binoculars, Parker scans the animals’ favorite sites. Sometimes a single specimen cannot be found for several days, then clusters reappear for several days very close to the hotel room. They are neither shy nor aggressive, but indifferent to people. There is something deep in their eyes, like they know a secret they don’t want to share.

Some guests get very emotional when they see them. “Some people start crying when they first see Docs,” Parker says. “No wonder, because the animals are absolutely unusual and beautiful,” the expert excites. He likens it to “The Wise Santa Claus.” At the same time, they looked almost feminine with their bluish-green eyelids. This is why the red-legged Doc is also called the “make-up monkey”. “Most visitors here find it hard to believe they’ve never heard of animals before.”

Primates cannot be tamed. Most of those who tried failed miserably. This also has to do with diet: the red-legged dock (Pygathrix nemaeus) lives exclusively in trees and eats mainly leaves. The Son Tra Nature Reserve, with its many cataba trees and figs, is the perfect habitat – unlike a zoo.

If you lock the animal in a cage, it often loses its color. “It’s probably like people turning pale when they’re not feeling well,” Parker says.

The biggest threat is humans

Parker has “monkey bridges” built over the resort’s trails so that the animals can easily move to another piece of forest at a higher altitude. Monkeys are fast and skilled climbers. It is especially impressive when they swing back and forth on a branch with their bright red legs and then jump their entire length to another tree.

As is often the case, the greatest danger to primates is humans. Parker regularly searches for the forest surrounding the resort. “So far we’ve found two poachers’ traps,” he says. Animals are hunted primarily for their meat as food and their brains as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine.

In Vietnam, some believed that eating monkeys while they were alive gave them special powers, Parker says. “A hunter who streamed live on the Internet a few years ago eats one of the animals alive,” he recalls. However, the Vietnamese government is now taking strict penalties to better protect the endangered animals.

The population has already been decimated by the Vietnam War

The number of duk monkeys has been declining for decades due to the loss of their natural habitat. The population was already destroyed by bombing and the use of intoxicants during the Vietnam War. As incredible as it sounds, at a military base in Son Tra, the military used to use primates as target practice targets.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the “red-legged Dock Langoer” as “critically endangered” on its Red List. In the past three generations (36 years), the number of animals may have decreased by 80 percent. The organization warns that “the decline is expected to continue at a similar rate (or even slightly faster) over the next 36 years.”

However, in Son Tra, the world seems pretty good for ape families, at least for now. The little ones play happily in the branches while the parents enjoy the sunny foliage in the afternoon. There were even two rare twin boys here. “Whenever I see a copy, I still let everything go,” says marketing director John Hamilton. The Canadian has been living in Son Tra for 18 months and the Dox likes to walk around his house. “They are really amazing creatures,” he says.

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