Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

Year of the Monkey: May 2016

Five Facts about the Critically Endangered Cat Ba Langur

This article is part of our monthly “Year of the Monkey” series. Visit our blog to read previous installments. 

A female Cat Ba langur (Trachypithecus p. poliocephalus) in oestrous presents to a  male, Cat Ba Island, Vietnam
A female Cat Ba langur (Trachypithecus p. poliocephalus) in oestrous presents to a  male, Cat Ba Island, Vietnam. © Tim Plowden / Alamy Stock Photo

Ever heard of the Cat Ba langur? We’re going to go out on a limb and say no. That’s a shame, because not only does the species don an impressive hairdo, but it is also Critically Endangered. Here are five interesting facts about the species.

1. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers Cat Ba langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus) to be one of the most Critically Endangered primate species on Earth. In the 1960s, there were an estimated 2,400–2,700 individuals. Unfortunately, because of hunting (the monkey has been used for traditional medicine) the latest census puts the current population between 40 and 60. 

2. The species lives on Cat Ba, one of the islands off the coast of northern Vietnam in Halong Bay. The monkeys can often be found in caves, where they protect themselves from both predators and extreme weather. 
The population is fragmented, and some of the sub-populations are comprised solely of females. 

3. Cat Ba Island is within the Indo-Burma Hotspot, which is also home to many other threatened species, including Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus), which was once thought to be extinct, and saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), an elusive forest-dwelling bovine. 

Golden-headed langur or Cat Ba langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus poliocephalus), Vietnam
Golden-headed langur or Cat Ba langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus poliocephalus), Vietnam. © Conservation International/illustration by Stephen Nash

4. Through grants to Westfälischer Zoologischer Garten Münster GmbH (Münster Zoo) and Fauna & Flora International (FFI), CEPF has supported efforts to protect the species and bolster its numbers, including by supporting and training national park rangers, improving information exchange among stakeholders and translocating two langur females living in isolation to a larger sub-population, where they have the chance to breed. These activities build on 16 years of work by the Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project, an initiative of Münster Zoo.​ 

5. About a third of the langurs live near human populations, making them particularly vulnerable. With support from authorities, local people known as “Langur Guardians” help protect the animals. Some of these volunteers once hunted the species themselves; today they are ardent conservationists.

See Also
​​Read more about the Indo-Burma biodiveristy hotspot.​