My shirt, jeans, shoulder satchel and everything in it were soaked through with sweat. The jungle was hot and humid and the climbing was arduous.
The spiderman monkeys of Quang Nam
By Michael Smith in Quang Nam
Two members of the primate student research team Nguyen Quoc Tien (front), Nguyen Thi Thu (behind) from Danang University trek in the forest looking for a group of douc monkeys - Photo: Michael Smith My shirt, jeans, shoulder satchel and everything in it were soaked through with sweat. The jungle was hot and humid and the climbing was arduous.
An hour up the mountain, Tan our guide pointed out some old douc droppings on a rock, we walked a short distance further then he stopped and signaled for silence, the monkeys were up this tree.
From the base of the tree he picked up green stems with leaves that had the young shoots removed. This was the work of doucs, the small 63-year-old whispered. After that everything happened quickly: We started to hear them; they were all around us and above us; the foliage shook in a nearby tree, then I saw three of them move past a window in the leaves just meters up the mountain.
Thu, the female student in the group moved higher up the slope and signaled she could see some there. Then a big one directly above me decided to come out of hiding. He moved across the tree top, then leapt five meters down to another tree then braced himself and made a courageous leap about eight meters down to a tree top further down the steep mountainside. I watched him, jaw open, as he quickly and noisily made his way across the branches and leapt down again, then he was gone.
“Nhanh qua, khong chup anh duoc, nhanh qua,” the guide explained the doucs are too quick to be photographed.
I had been trying to see these beautiful animals for weeks, first by trying unsuccessfully to get permission into Gia Lai Province’s Kon Ka Kinh National Park with some douc researchers, then I was turned away at an office near the main road that enters Kon Tum’s Ngoc Linh National Park. The next day I was able to walk in the northern end of that park and heard that a lot of doucs had come through the tree tops a few days earlier. On Thursday I was taken to see these amazingly beautiful monkeys at Son Tra peninsular in Danang but had no luck to see them. So on Friday’s encounter with the endangered monkeys that can fly like spiderman or base jumpers was a culminating event in this nature lover’s mission.
The faculty of Biology and Environment of Danang University is doing a research project on the group of 10 grey shanked doucs that live about 100 km south of Danang on Tam Lanh Mountain. There are five students from faculty studying the group as part of a Frankfurt Zoological Society project to train primate scientists in Vietnam.