Saving Monkeys in Vietnam

Joel photographing a rare Asiatic softshell turtle in Vietnam.

The Houston Zoo recognizes that strategic partnerships strengthen our ability to save animals in the wild.  We know that it will take armies of nature saving minds to preserve our planet’s biodiversity, which is why we seek to partner with conservation partners that will reach new audiences and connect them to the urgent need for conservation action.

We began our partnership with an organization called The Photo Ark in 2010.   It was founded by National Geographic photographer, Joel Sartore.  The goal of the Photo Ark is to photo document and display all of the world’s captive species in a way that people will want to care about them before they disappear.

A female slow loris (Nycticebus bengalensis) a vulnerable species at the Endangered Primate Rescue Center in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam.

Joel Sartore and Peter Riger, the Houston Zoo’s Vice-President of Conservation, are in Vietnam visiting a variety of rehabilitation and rescue centers to take photos of some of the rarest species in captivity. Here is a report from Peter on how everything is going:

It was our second day at the Endangered Primate Rescue Center (EPRC) in Cuc Phuong National Park and we continued working our way through photographing some of the worlds most critically endangered primates. 

But first, a quick stop at their nursery to photo a 24 day old slow loris and a ~2 month old Red-shanked Douc langur they are being hand-reared. The Slow Loris trade across Southeast Asia is a really big problem and they are captured in extremely high numbers for the pet trade even though it is illegal to do so. Read about how monkeys make bad pets here.  EPRC is home to both the Slow Loris and Pygmy Loris, confiscations from the illegal pet trade.  

Luna, a 56-day-old red-shanked langur (Pygathrix nemaeus). at the Endangered Primate Rescue Center in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam.

You see us toss around the word endangered a lot so I will just say the Cat Ba Langur only has 55 individuals left in the world, with 4 here at EPRC and the rest on Cat Ba island in Halong Bay, northern Vietnam. That is a really desperate number for this very striking primate. 55 individuals – think about that for a second.

A Hatinh langur (Trachypithecus hatinhensi) at the Endangered Primate Rescue Center in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam.

Next up – The Gibbons and a quick visit next door to capture images of two very unique other species.


So you get the idea that the photos we will be posting are of wildlife that very few people will ever see in the wild or a zoo and all their populations are in steep decline with a few, bordering on disappearing forever if things don’t get better.  Hopefully, the Photo Ark will do it’s job and people will begin to think about saving species in everything they do. 

There is actually something you can be doing  to protect those beautiful primates in Vietnam all the way over here in Texas.  There is an ingredient called palm oil found in many foods (chocolate, candy, crackers, cookies etc.) and cosmetics (shampoo, liquid hand soaps and creams, etc.) that is farmed in Asian countries like Vietnam.  Many companies clear cut forests in order to farm this product and the endangered animals like these amazing monkeys loose their homes.  

Northern white cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) at the Endangered Primate Rescue Center in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam.

 What can you do? 

You can keep an eye on the ingredients listed on the products you buy.   Palm oil free is a good option, as well as choosing products made with sustainable palm oil. Sustainable means that the farming practice is careful and participates in processes that will preserve nature.

If you buy products that contain palm oil, check to see if those companies are part of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). If they are not, write a letter to the company encouraging them to join.

  • Support companies that are doing things right! Need to buy some makeup or beauty products?  Look at a company like LUSH that has gone palm oil free.
  • If you buy local products they are less likely to contain this harmful ingredient.
“Heidi”, a grey langur (Trachypithecus crepusculus) at the Endangered Primate Rescue Center in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam.

To be a part of this important Photo Ark work you can donate here.

If you would like to help the Endangered Primate Rescue Center (EPRC) in Cuc Phuong National Park save these monkeys you can donate here.

And remember every time you visit the Houston Zoo you save animals in the wild!  A portion of your admission or membership goes to protecting animals in the wild.


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