San Diego Zoo staff members Bryan Endress and Maren Peterson are currently in Vietnam to help put together a conservation plan for critically endangered Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys. They are keeping us posted on their progress. See their previous blog, Snub-nosed Monkeys: Meetings.
Our expedition to the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey habitat was yesterday. To get to the area, we hiked from 600 to 2,000 feet (180 to 600 meters) in altitude. We saw proposed reforestation areas, including family gardens, pastures, and corn and cassava fields. We stayed overnight at a ranger station with guides that patrol the forest.
The next morning we started our hike (well, climb!) to find the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. We ascended eventually to almost 3,000 feet (over 900 meters), with at least 7 descents down to 2,300 feet (700 meters) and back higher again! The land is karst limestone, which means a large part of our climbing was over large, slippery, sharp rocks with huge drop-offs between them. The hike took over six hours.
We did not see the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. However, that wasn’t really our objective. We were assessing forest habitat the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey depends on to determine restoration and habitat conservation. We saw plenty of that: old fields, regenerated secondary forests, and primary forest. The primary forest trees were enormous and beautiful.
The funny part was when we had returned, we discovered the Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys had been on the edge of the forest close to the houses. They had been seen by a local the day before close to the village; we weren’t completely surprised, but we had needed to see the forest.