HANOI: Vietnamese police are investigating the killing of nine endangered primates whose body parts were to be used for traditional medicine, officials said Tuesday (Aug 30).
The black-shanked doucs - monkeys with grey-blue faces and long tails - are among many rare species under threat in the communist nation where wildlife trafficking is rife.
Police are probing three men between the ages of 19 and 35 suspected of poaching the animals, investigator Mai Hong Quang told AFP.
"They were caught carrying the dried animals on their bikes in July. We have now banned them from leaving their residence, pending investigation," Quang said.
"The men told us they wanted to sell the dried primates they had shot dead in deep forest for use in traditional medicine," Quang said.
If charged with killing an endangered species, the men could face up to seven years in jail and a fine of 100 million dong (US$4,480).
Vietnam is home to some of world's most endangered species, including the mountainous antelope Saola, the Red River giant soft-shell turtle and the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey.
Though legislation on wildlife protection is in place, critics say the laws are not always effectively enforced and poaching of rare or endangered species continues.
Black-shanked doucs (Pygathrix Nigripes) are related to the red-shanked and grey-shanked douc langur, all found in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The red-shanked and black-shanked douc langur are both endangered and populations of the three species had dropped by 50 to 80 percent over the last three decades, WWF said on its website.
In Vietnam, the main threat to the douc is habitat loss and hunting, after which the animals are used for medicine, meat or sold as pets.
The news comes days after researchers in northern Vietnam said they spotted a new group of 40 Delacour's langurs, a critically endangered primate that only lives in Vietnam that is also under threat from poaching and habitat loss.