28 IS THE MAGIC NUMBER FOR THE ENDANGERED DOUC LANGUR TROOP

Singapore, 3 Aug 2012 — Recent visitors to Singapore Zoo might have seen bright flashes of red, gold and grey flitting through the trees at Primate Kingdom. Eagle-eyed guests may even have seen a small, duller flash darting about, with a bigger ball of colour following close behind.

This is no trapeze artist at the Zoo, but a precocious new addition to the 15-strong Douc langur family that resides at Primate Kingdom. An, which means “peace” in both Vietnamese and Chinese, is the 28th successful birth that we have welcomed since 1988 and mum Sawadee’s second baby. Coincidentally, An arrived at our zoo on 28 April this year.

Baby An makes a leap for the next branch as mum Sawadee follows closely behind.

Though red-shanked Douc langurs are classified as monkeys, their multi-coloured coats (consisting red, black, white, grey and gold highlights), complete with blue eyes, have earned them the title of “costumed ape”.

At just slightly over three months old, Baby An’s body colouration is lighter than mum and the other adults. As he grows older, his coat will darken as his face lightens, achieving adult colouration at 10 months.

While the Douc langurs in Singapore Zoo enjoy a protected environment, ample food and a large, naturalistic habitat, the same cannot be said for their counterparts in the wild. Native to the rainforests of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, they are listed as endangered on the IUCN* Red List of Threatened Species.

Locals hunt this monkey for food and its body parts, which are used in the preparation of traditional medicines. The Douc langur’s beauty has also become its undoing as it is sometimes hunted to sustain the international pet trade. During the Vietnam War, its forest habitat was also destroyed by defoliating agents and bombs.

“It is fitting that we name this new baby after the word ‘peace’,” said Mr Alagappasamy Chellaiyah, Assistant Director, Zoology, Singapore Zoo, “It is our hope that humans eventually make peace with this species, and realise the importance of conserving, rather than killing them.”

Baby An hitches a ride with mum – baby Douc langurs cling to their mothers instinctively after they’re born, and achieve greater independence from them between 8-18 months of age.

Sawadee shares a quiet moment with her son while perched atop the vines of their habitat.

Singapore Zoo’s Primate Kingdom is home to 15 of these beautiful primates. Of the 28 babies born here, some have been sent to zoos overseas as part of the Zoo’s ex-situ conservation efforts through its worldwide exchange programme. In March this year, Wani, a female Douc langur, was sent to Yokohama Zoo on a breeding loan. She will be joined by another Douc langur later this year.

*International Union for the Conservation of Nature

PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE