The Red-Shanked Douc is a critically endangered primate species that is endemic to Indochina. They are only found in North and Central Vietnam and Laos. The largest population of Red-Shanked Doucs are in Son Tra Nature Reserve and are estimated to be around 1300 individuals.
They are called the “Queens of the primates” and very colorful. Their face is a beautiful red and yellow with powder blue eyelids. Framing their face is long white hair and a white mouth and chin. Their torso is grey with black upper legs and red lower legs. Their upper arms are grey matching their torso and their forearms are white. They have long white tails that is as long as their body and their hands and feet are black and look like they are wearing shoes and gloves. They are so colorful they are sometimes called the “costume ape”. All of these features can be seen in the three pictures below.
The average lifespan for the Red-Shanked Douc is about 25 years. Their overall size is 60 to 75 cm (not including their tails) and weigh 5 to 7 kg with males being slightly larger than females. Their diet is primarily leaves but they will eat small fruit, buds and flowers. They normally eat in the early morning or late afternoon and sleep during the middle part of the day. The best time to see them is when they are feeding as they move around for food. The next set of photos shows one of the Doucs eating young soft leaves.
They spend most of their time in the mid to upper levels of the tree canopy. Many times they can be heard moving in the branches before they can be seen. The photos below shows several Doucs in the tree tops and in the middle of the trees.
Sometimes they can be seen jumping through the air from tree to tree and they can jump up to 6 meters to reach another tree. I was able to capture one of those jumps on the photos below.
Occasionally, they will go to the ground but they move very quickly to get back into the trees. I was lucky to see two doucs dark across the road trying to join the rest of their family which is seen in the series of photos below.
The Red-Shanked Doucs have one baby at a time and they are normally born in the spring just as the food becomes more plentiful. I was lucky to be in Da Nang this spring so I was able to photograph three separate mothers with their babies.
Most of the time the Doucs were watching me as much as I was watching them. That is normal with most wildlife. They are always watching for things that might be a danger to them. When the Doucs perceive a threat they will start grunting to alert the other members of the family that they need to be cautious. This happened while I was watching them, obviously they become less in the open when they are nervous but if they are comfortable they will venture more into the open. The following photos are of three Doucs that are in clear view.
My final two photos are two of my favorite photos. The first is of an older Douc hiding in tree canopy surrounded by tree blooms.
The second is of a young Douc that is interested in me and the photo makes me feel like we were staring at each other eye-to-eye. It is a strange feeling looking deep into the eyes of another species and knowing that they are doing the same to you. It makes me feel a little closer to animals that share the planet with us.
If you do get a chance to be in one of the few places that the Red-Shanked Douc live then good luck on your search to see these monkeys!
Son Tra Nature Reserve is home to the largest population of Red-Shanked Doucs which makes it the best place to have a chance to see them. The reserve is open to the public and anyone can visit on their own but I would strongly recommend contacting GreenViet Biodiversity Conservation Center where they will provide a group or private tour that is designed and guided by experts in wildlife conservation. A tour through GreenViet will allow you to learn more about the Son Tra Nature Reserve and they know where the Doucs normally frequent give you a better chance to see the Doucs.
“GreenViet Biodiversity conservation centre is a non-government established on October 4, 2012 in Da Nang. Main activities of GreenViet are doing researches, conducting communication and education projects in saving biodiversity, forming ad developing the environmental friendly lifestyle.”
The photo on the above is of GreenViet’s Nature Education Center (NEC) that was opened to the public on December 28, 2018.
Find out more about GreenViet at http://greenviet.org/
Anticipate the shot!
Good photos happen by being at the right place at the right time but that normally doesn’t just happen accidentally!
For this photo the douc was in the bushes making a bunch of noise but it was completely hidden. I crouched down with my camera ready and suddenly it dashed across the road. The photo opportunity only lasted for about 2 seconds and then it was gone.
Getting a good wildlife photo always makes me excited because wildlife photography is the most difficult.