The golden-headed or Cat Ba langur is one of the world’s most endangered primates. Only 59 survive, and all but two live on Cat Ba Island, off the north coast of Vietnam. (The other two are in captivity.) With an area of 140 square miles, Cat Ba is the largest of 3,000 islands comprising a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Halong Bay. The population of Cat Ba langurs has rapidly decreased in the past 20 years due to illegal hunting. Poachers supply both local restaurants and makers of monkey bone paste, which is considered to have medicinal properties.
To protect the remaining animals, the German-based conservation organization the Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations began a langur-guarding program. Under this program, local residents are in charge of guarding particular Cat Ba langur groups against poaching. In return, the guardians’ families receive a small stipend and the right to sustainably fish and harvest forest products in their patrol area. Seacology is providing funding to expand this program to four more langur groups with a total of 20 animals.