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At an eatery selling endangered monkey meat in Vietnam

Sunday, September 20, 2015, 19:15 GMT+7
At an eatery selling endangered monkey meat in Vietnam
This 12kg langur was shot dead in a forest in the north-central Vietnamese province of Ha Tinh.

An endangered species of monkey listed in Vietnam’s Red Book was openly slaughtered at an eatery on the Ho Chi Minh highway in the north-central province of Ha Tinh.

>> An audio version of the story is available here

The slaughterer at the eatery, located in Vu Quang Town in Vu Quang District, said he shed the skin of the 12kg vooc ngu sac, a monkey of the rare and precious species with its coat having five different showy colors, to stuff it into a cuddly toy monkey.

The skin of the showy animal had been ordered for VND2 million (US$89), he added, noting that price was exclusive of its meat.

At the vooc eatery

The owner of the vooc (langur) eatery is K.

Believing that he was receiving a group of guests looking for vooc meat one day, K. turned a bag upside down to get out the body of a langur. It was shot dead the previous night.

Bending down to see the animal, a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper journalist disguising himself as a guest smelt a very nasty odor.

Understanding it, K. said, “That is the smell of any vooc, and it is even more unpleasant than that of a skunk.

“It is not the smell of rotten meat.

“This one was shot dead last night so I don’t need to freeze it in my fridge.”

Though the animal was dead, its appearance and coat looked as beautiful as a monkey in a painting.

“This is not a vooc Ha Tinh.

“This is a brown-legged langur which is commonly called ‘five-colored voọc.’

Vooc Ha Tinh and brown-legged vooc are two of around ten endangered species of monkey in Vietnam and they are usually called vooc in Vietnamese.

Vooc Ha Tinh is a species native to forests in Ha Tinh Province.

“This weighs 12kg, a rather big one. The biggest vooc is no more than 15kg in weight,” K. added.

“It is hard to spot a vooc in the wild now.

“The hunters were dog-tired to watch for this vooc to fall into a sound sleep at night on a top tree canopy to open fire on it.

“They had to traverse the Vu Quang jungle on a steep rock mountain near the Vietnam-Laos border to find this animal. It is some 50km from here.”

The appearance and coat of that vooc looked animated.

The coat on the peak of its head looked like a black-hat top, as if it were wearing a black beret.

The thin coat on its face was light pink from the cheeks to the nose while the two eyelids, chin, and mouth were covered with a light white coat.

The coat covering its entire body had many other colors, with both arms black, but white fur was seen from the elbows down to the fingers.

Its chest turned from black to grey at the belly and became black again on both thighs.

The part from the knees to the ankles was red brown. The tail was thin and over half a meter long, all covered in white fur.

Both palms and soles had brown fur that looked as though the langur put on two short pairs of brown gloves.

Lifting the langur up for the guests to watch carefully, K. explained, “Before, I had some vooc that looked similar to this monkey but they had white fur round their belly that was like a belt and we often call them ‘soldier vooc.’

“I’ve never seen any ‘soldier vooc’ recently.

“A female vooc bears one baby a year, at the end of spring and the outset of summer, but the number of hunters has been increasing.

“So the ‘soldier vooc’ and other species of langur might have been extinct.”

After around 30 minutes, the slaughterer finished skinning the animal in the presence of the group of guests.

“This eatery is close to the Vu Quang jungle but it seems that you’re not afraid of being found killing the monkey openly like this,” the Tuoi Tre reporter said.

“We all know each other well,” the eatery owner replied briefly.

The season of hunting vooc

When the undercover Tuoi Tre correspondent asked to join a vooc hunting trip, K. just turned him down and said, “No other hunter can join the hunting.

“Hunters must bring food and necessary tools to stay in the deep jungle for months to hunt langurs.

“Any animal shot dead is immediately carried home for sale and the remaining hunters keep going on their trip for months.

“When hunting vooc, the hunters can’t bring dogs with them.

“The vooc is very sensitive and can notice the sound of a falling leaf to run away on top of the forest trees.”

K. added that langurs prefer staying in the deep jungle where there are cold rock caves to stay away from the heat of the hot season.

“So hunters can only find vooc in the rainy season, when they leave the humid caves for sunny places to pick fruit,” he said.

“Sometimes, it is very difficult to spot any langur even though hunters have traveled for months in deep jungles in the rainy season.

“Hunters must sleep in daytime and hunt at night to catch the rare animal.”

Dao Huy Phien, director of the Vu Quang national park, told Tuoi Tre that many hunters are inexperienced and unable to recognize an endangered species so they tend to kill them mistakenly.

Asked why hunters can carry guns into the forest, Phien said the Vu Quang jungle is very large, around 57,000 hectares in area, but he “has just enough rangers to guard at nine stations.”

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