The Monkey Who Wore Shorts

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.

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:

The Monkey Who Wore Shorts

Many of the langur species have varying coats of grey and slightly different facial features from white “mustaches” to white tinged heads. The Cat Ba Langur is also called the golden Headed langur due to their unique “golden” head. But the Delacour’s Langur is unmistakably the langur who wears a white pair of shorts.

The Endangered Primate Rescue Center (EPRC) holds confiscated individuals and successfully breeds this species for future release. They are the only captive facility in the world with this species.

Delacour's langur (male) at Endangered Primate Rescue Center in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam.
Delacour’s langur (male) at Endangered Primate Rescue Center in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam.

This striking coloration may make them stand out in a photo but in their native habitat, among the limestone karst cliffs of Vietnam, their dark coat and white shorts blend perfectly with the light and shadows coming off the gray cliffs and caves they call home.

Delacour’s Langur easily falls into one of the 25 most critically endangered primates in the world and is split into two populations here in Vietnam which are unconnected and many miles apart. A location we will visit this week, the Van Long Nature Reserve hosts approximately 120 individuals,a number of which were introduced from EPRC. Surrounded in large part by water, Van Long can only be visited by poled flat bottom boats that supports tourism which in turn helps the local community, bringing pride, and jobs, in protecting these langurs. EPRC also supports local park rangers for Van Long to help protect the Delacour’s.

The second much smaller population is here in Cuc Phuong National Park. In total, it is believed there are under 200 wild individuals surviving today. 200.

Delacour's langur (male) at Endangered Primate Rescue Center in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam.
Delacour’s langur (male) at Endangered Primate Rescue Center in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam.

Those familiar with the Houston Zoo know our auditorium seats 250 people. You can fit every Delacour Langur in the world – wild and captive – into that small auditorium of ours and that really makes you realize how close we are to losing this beautiful primate, the only monkey who truly wears shorts.

Stay tuned for more from the Houston Zoo’s Vice President of Conservation Peter Riger and the Photo Ark’s Joel Sartore in Vietnam.

Donate or learn more about the Photo Ark.  And remember the Houston Zoo is saving animals in the wild, so every time you visit the Zoo you help us to do this awesome work!



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