Conservation Blog

Conserving Primates in Vietnam

Fota Wildlife Park is playing a key role in the protection of some of the most Endangered primates in the world in Vietnam through supporting local ethnic minority communities to conduct forest patrols.

“Vietnam holds some of the rarest primates on the planet, with 5 of the top 25 most endangered species globally,” reports Dr Ben Rawson of Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI) Primate Conservation Programme. In recognition of this, Fota Wildlife Park has been partnering with FFI Vietnam to help protect the small remaining wild populations of two of the most endangered primates in the world.

The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is one of the most bizarre, yet strangely beautiful of Vietnam’s primates and is found nowhere else in the world. “Current estimates suggest that in the region of 200 animals exist in the wild, and no captive population exists anywhere in the world,” Fota Wildlife Park Director Sean McKeown explained, “while we obviously don’t hold this species in Fota, our commitment to conservation of threatened species means that we provide funding support to ensure this magnificent animal does not become extinct in the near future.”

Unfortunately, extinction is a very real possibility for the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey at the current rate of decline. With only two small populations likely to be viable and found in tiny fragments of forest, surrounded by agricultural landscapes and under heavy hunting and logging pressure, only a concerted enforcement and protection programme can help save them. The financial contribution made by Fota Wildlife Park is helping to support local communities living in the areas surrounding these strongholds. This support is facilitating the implementation of conservation efforts for this species. “Through Fota, local people are empowered and supported to be engaged in protection and education work,” said Ben Rawson. “The local communities are ethnic minorities and extremely poor; we give them the opportunity to engage in conservation through conducting forest patrols in association with local governmental authorities as well as education work with other members of their communities.”

This model is also being used in Mu Cang Chai Species Habitat Conservation Area, last home in Vietnam to the Critically Endangered western black-crested gibbon. “There are only about 60 individuals of this species left in Vietnam, everywhere else in the country it has been extirpated,” notes Sean McKeown. When populations get so low, every individual counts. Engaging local communities to understand the importance of the species is supported through education work, and much needed protection is conducted by a motivated team of local community members. “We are running out of time of if we are to avoid the first primate species extinctions in more than 100 years, but we are making good progress with Fota’s support” said Ben Rawson.