White-headed langur

East Asia


Trachypithecus poliocephalus


  • Overhunting
  • Habitat degradation
  • Population fragmentation

The White-Headed Langur, a member of Old World monkey species is considered as the rarest primate in the world. Locally, it is known as Cat Ba Langur because it can only be found on its namesake island in Vietnam. Its scientific name is derived from Greek words ‘trach’ (rough) and ‘pithekos’ (ape).

This medium-sized, black-coloured monkey with yellow cheeks and crown is terrestrial, arboreal, and herbivorous in nature, like many other of its kind. Almost 70% of its diet consists of leaves, shoots, moss, lichens, and evergreen petioles. It also eats fruits, flowers, seeds, and nuts. The White-Headed Langur is an excellent climber and jumper but would stay inside caves and ledges to protect itself from predators and extreme weather. It usually belongs to one-male-several-female group. A baby langur can be born every two to three years.

Its fast decline in number is due to uncontrolled hunting. Local people sell its body parts as ingredients in traditional medicine. It is believed to cure erectile dysfunction among other health issues. Continued degradation of its natural habitat is also another reason for its low population. Cat Ba Island is fast becoming a well-known tourist spot which leads to cutting down of trees and clearing of lands to make way for buildings, roads, and commercial attractions.