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All Creatures,

Episode 11: Rock the Cat Ba Langur

January 09, 2018


 

These are one of the most endangered animals on the planet. There are less than 60 Cat Ba Langurs left and conservation experts are working hard to save these animals.

Cat Ba Langur

The Cat Ba Langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus) is often referred to as the golden-headed langur, with a subspecies designation of T.p. poliocephalus. These primates specifically reside on Cat Ba Island off the coast of Vietnam in Southeast Asia. The other species of T. poliocephalus, with a subspecies designation of leucocephalus, is located in China and often referred to as the white-headed langur. The current episode strictly focuses on the Cat Ba Langur.

These primates look like a typical monkey with golden hair that dresses down the shoulders, with a dark brown or black body. The hair above their head reaches up to a peak, giving them a unique appearance.

Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Island is one of almost 300 islands of the Cat Ba archipelago which resides off the northeastern coast of Vietnam. Additionally, Cat Ba island resides along the southern edge of Ha Long Bay, a tourist hot spot. The island chains are recognized for their natural beauty and incredible limestone karsts, which drawn many from around the globe. Unfortunately, this has led to increased human-animal conflicts with not only the Cat Ba Langur, but other natural wildlife of the area. Cat Ba island is approximately 100 square miles, or 260 square km.

Langur History

The Cat Ba Langur is an Old World Monkey, which reside in the “old world” or Asia and Africa. New World Monkeys are found in South and Central America. A major difference between old-world and new-world primates is the use of their tails. New World Monkeys have prehensile tails, meaning they can grasp with the ends of their tails and use them exclusively in climbing and working in the canopies of trees.

Langurs are also called “leaf-eating” monkeys, since they feed exclusively on foliage, or fruits and seeds. There are 15 subspecies of langurs to include the Cat Ba Langur, that stretch from Sri Lanka, throughout India, over to Vietnam and up into China. It is thought the Cat Ba Langur became isolated on Cat Ba island after the end of the last Ice Age, over 12,000 years ago.

Cat Ba Langur Facts

The Cat Ba Langur males live to be on average 18 in the wild, whereas females can live up to 30. Only 5 Cat Ba Langurs are currently maintained in captivity, but other Langurs can live up to mid-30s in captivity. Other facts include:

  • Average body length is 20 inches (50 cm), then tails extend another 3 feet (85 cm)
  • Average weight of 30 lbs. (13 kg)
  • Superior eye sight for predator avoidance
  • Diurnal, meaning mostly active during the day
  • Langurs have low energy diets (high fiber) so appear to be less active to conserve energy
  • Spend 20% of time foraging and other times resting to digest food, or moving to new feeding grounds
  • Sacculated stomachs help them digest their heavy forage diets like cows to “ruminate”
  • Cat Ba Langurs live high up on the limestone karsts around the Island

Cat Ba Langur Conservation Status

These monkeys are considered critically-endangered and one of the most endangered species on the planet. Like other species heading towards extinction, the Cat Ba Langur has a team of zoo’s and conservation experts on the ground in Cat Ba Island working to help preserve the remaining animals.

In 2017, 8 Cat Ba Langur births were recorded, with only 1 infant death (below average). The population appears to be stable but is facing severe issues with increased tourism and development of the Cat Ba archipelago. Currently, there are three isolated populations of Cat Ba Langurs on Cat Ba Island.

A discussion of the Cat Ba Langur was held with the head of the Cat Ba Conservation Project, Neagha Leonard and will be released as a separate podcast Episode 11A. Please download and listen to an incredible interview with a conservation specialist in the field.

Organizations to Support

Cat Ba Conservation Project

Primate Specialist Group

All Creatures Podcast Patreon

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