Douc (pronounced Dook) is one of the most beautiful and colourful primates. In the past the Douc had a large population, spread all over the monsoon forests in Southeastern Asia. Unfortunately, this species became a victim during to massive bombing during the Vietnam War.
A male Red-shanked Douc in the jungle
The Douc are 55 to 82 cm long, with a tail of 60 – 77 cm. Females weigh up to 5 kg, while the males weigh up to 7 kg. This species of monkeys are often said to wear a colourful dressing, consisting of a jacket, a vest, shorts, knee-length socks and shoes, because of their appearance. The Douc’s colouring changes on its body so frequently that it seems that the fur is patched together from different pieces.
These colourful primates live in Vietnam and Laos, staying in dense monsoon forests up to 2000 m above sea level. In the past the Douc were very widespread and lived in groups of 60 and more individuals. Now you can rarely see a crowd of more than twelve monkeys. They are gracious animals, that easily move throughout the forest, being able to jump as far as 6 m.
The Douc’s diet consists mostly of leaves, while fruit are only a complementary food source. Feeding makes up for most of the Douc’s day, as they need to consume massive amounts of leaves to quench their hunger. These monkeys are known to be exquisite gourmets. Prior to eating, they carefully examine leaves and fruit. Old leaves and overmature or green fruit are thrown away, and the ground around where the Douc feed is often covered in vegetation they don’t consider tasty enough. During feeding, these monkeys are very calm and civilized, they don’t fight with each other for food and occasionally even treat each other with tasty vegetation they’ve found.
Douc mating rituals are planned so that the baby isn’t born when the food is scarce. Thirty days after copulation, a single monkey with light fur and closed eyes is born. Their coat turns darker as they age, and during this time they’re taken nursed not only by the mother, but other members of the group as well. Douc reach their sexual maturity at the age of 5 and their lifespan is 25 years on average.
Red-shanked Douc mother with a baby
All subspecies of the Douc are endangered, especially the Gray-shanked Douc that are hunted for bush meat and various medical purposes. The population of the Douc suffered greatly during the Vietnam War, when the massive bombings often hit areas of their natural habitat, destroying population within and also fragmenting the forests. Also, during the war, these monkeys were used as live practice targets by soldiers. Hopefully, the newly introduced conservation laws will help the Douc recover, reaching notable population count once again.