By Michael Stern, Denver Zoo Assistant Curator of Primates
Denver Zoo’s Director of Conservation Biology Amy Levine has been working in the Ha Giang province of Vietnam since 2009, partnering with the Ha Giang Forestry Protection Department and the University of Colorado Boulder, to assess where the needs of Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys and the local people intersect.
This year, I joined Amy to help with this project, along with Rebecca Goldstone, founder of the New Nature Foundation (a Denver Zoo partner that focuses on fuel wood issues in Uganda.) The work took place eight hours north of Hanoi, where only about 115 snub-nosed monkeys, about one-half of the entire population, live.
Firewood collection for cooking and home heat is a continuous threat to the habitat of the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. Denver Zoo has been excited to lead the introduction of more fuel-efficient cooking technologies to this area – a mutual benefit for people and monkeys alike. Having worked with a similar issue in Uganda for the past nine years, I was thrilled to be invited to help with this program.
After we arrived, we met the head of the Ha Giang Forestry Protection Department and his staff. Modifying our Ugandan design to fit local tastes and standards took some discussion and experiments, which were carried out with different designs.
We stayed with a family in a local village that Amy has stayed with many times. The warmth and generosity was wonderful, and the traditional stilt house we stayed in was truly beautiful. Delicious green veggies, pork, bamboo and rice are common in almost every meal, as well as tea.
After agreeing on the best concept and practicing building techniques with the staff members - who will be building stoves in the future - the first stove was built the following day in the house where we were staying. The other members of the forestry staff were so excited by how it looked, they asked to build at their homes, too. The local crew picked up the building techniques quicker than expected, and built all three stoves that day by themselves with minimal instruction.
In the three weeks we spent in Vietnam, we were able to build stoves in seven separate homes of the community patrol group (CPG) staff, who is now tasked with doing the same job for their friends and neighbors that live in areas bordering the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey’s habitat.
These stoves use an average of one-third less wood than traditional methods of cooking.
In addition to this work, Amy, Director of Guest Engagement Brad Parks, Rebecca and myself spent one week presenting and chairing sessions at the congress of the International Primatological Society.
This is just one of the many ways our conservation biology staff strives to make a difference in the lives of animals, not only on our campus, but throughout the world!
Photos by Le Van Dung, Denver Zoo Research Assistant, and Amy Levine.