Vietnam: Soldiers Arrested for Torturing, Killing Endangered Langurs

Three suspects have been arrested in connection with the torture and killing of a critically endangered grey-shanked douc langur after one of the suspects posted photos on his Facebook page.

A Vietnamese soldier identified as Nguyen Van Quang has been arrested, along with two accomplices, for his involvement in the torture and killing of two grey-shanked douc langurs.

Update 01/18/2013: Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV) reports that the three hunters who caught and sold the endangered langurs to the soldiers have received jail sentences of 28, 24, and 12 months.

Update 08/01/2012: According to the news portal Viet Nam News, Quang has been “discharged from the army for causing the death of two endangered langurs” and his accomplices have “received disciplinary warnings”. Although Vietnamese law states that an offender can be jailed for up to three years for killing an endangered species such as the grey-shanked douc langur, there was no mention of further punishment for Quang.

Global outrage spread across social media and beyond after Nguyen Van Quang posted a disturbing series of photos on his Facebook page. The gruesome photos depict a langur with a cigarette in her mouth (the langur was believed to be pregnant) and show the suspect grinning as he holds the body of the dead langur. At least one of the photos shows a liquid-filled syringe being held near the langur’s mouth while the small primate is being restrained.

Grey-shanked douc langurs (Pygathrix cinerea) are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, with a total population of just 550 to 700 individuals.

AsiaOne reports that the trio is expected to appear at a later date in a military court. The killing is believed to have occurred in the Sa Thay District in the central highlands province of Kon Tum and the suspects say they purchased the langurs from locals.

The head of Tay Nguyen Command’s Military Prosecutor’s, Col Nguyen Van Hai, was quoted in BBC News as saying the investigation was “continuing”.

We’re still continuing our investigation into the case. When we have enough evidence, they [the soldiers] will be dealt with in accordance with Vietnamese military laws.

Nga Pham from BBC Vietnam said “it was worrying that the young soldier who posted the photos on Facebook did not think he did anything wrong” and that people needed to be educated about “animal welfare and protection”.

Vietnamese NGO Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV) was alerted to the situation by an informant who saw the photos on Nguyen Van Quang’s Facebook page.

This set of photos was posted on the Facebook page of Nguyen Van Quang. He has been arrested, along with two accomplices, and they are expected to appear at a later date in a military court. A military spokesperson says the investigation is “continuing”.

According to Education for Nature-Vietnam, the country is home to at least 11 different species of langur and five gibbon species. Five of Vietnam’s primates are among the 25 world’s most critically endangered primates.

In Vietnam, langurs and gibbons are usually sold as pets or kept in illegal zoos found near resorts and hotels. However, they are still eaten in some “remote areas”.

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Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.