Rare apes found in central Vietnam

March 4th, 2009 - 9:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Hanoi, March 4 (DPA) A survey has found significant numbers of two endangered primate species in a national park in central Vietnam, conservationists said Wednesday.
Roughly 30 families of southern white-cheeked gibbons were spotted in a wildlife survey covering part of the mountainous Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in the province of Quang Binh. The survey also found a number of red-shanked Douc langurs.

Both species are considered endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Conservationists said it would take several weeks to confirm the precise numbers of animals found, but they said the large number of white-cheeked gibbons meant that Phong Nha-Ke Bang should be treated as a crucial zone for preservation of that species.

“This species is only found in central Vietnam and over into the border area in Laos,” said Josh Kempinski, an ecologist with the conservation organisation Flora and Fauna International, which collaborated on the survey. “Phong Nha-Ke Bang is definitely a key area for the species’ conservation.”

Researchers from Germany’s Cologne Zoo and Vietnamese park staff conducted the survey, part of a 14.4-million-euro ($18-million) German development aid programme to promote conservation among local villagers. The programme has trained some residents to monitor the wildlife and report illegal poaching and forest incursions.

“(The priority) is reducing hunting pressure and the trade in wildlife meat, which is locally quite strong,” said Paul Insua-Cao, coordinator of Flora and Fauna International’s primate-conservation programme.

Insua-Cao said locals hunted apes for wildlife restaurants in the area and to feed the wildlife trade in large cities in Vietnam and China.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, 500 km south of Hanoi, is recognised by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site.

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