Belfast Telegraph

'Precious' ginger primate Zhen is right at home in Belfast Zoo

By Amanda Ferguson

One of the world's rarest monkeys has found a new home in Belfast thanks to the expertise of zoo curator Andrew Hope.

These are the first pictures of a Francois langur named Zhen who arrived in Belfast on November 25 - when he was aged just four weeks - from ZSL London Zoo.

Zhen was rejected by his mother and had to be hand-reared by keeper, Kathryn Sanders, for the first few weeks of his life before being brought to Belfast.

Only seven zoos in Europe care for this endangered species and the Belfast Zoo team have a great reputation for their work with this langur species. 

Zoo curator Andrew Hope has hand-reared a number of these primates in the past and is the studbook keeper for the species. 

This means he is responsible for managing the population of Francois’ langurs in European zoos by providing breeding recommendations based on a number of factors, such as genetics.

Andrew said: “Many first time mothers simply do not have the skill set or the instinct to care for their young and this can be common in many species. 

"We found ourselves in the same situation on August 23, 2014, when our female Francois’ langur, Chi, gave birth to Xiao Xing. 

"Xiao Xing was rejected and I had to step in to care for the infant. 

"Xiao Xing has lived in my home for the past three months and continues to need 24 hour care.

"There have been countless sleepless nights and I have to feed him every few hours but it has definitely been a rewarding experience.”

 Andrew said he was delighted to get involved in hand-rearing Zhen. 

"It is a particularly special experience as I was responsible for hand-rearing Zhen’s father, Neo, back in 2003," he said.

"It is a wonderful feeling to know that my efforts with Neo have had an impact on the next generation of Francois’ langur in European zoos.  

"The Francois’ langur is a species particularly close to my heart. 

"Earlier this year I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for a number of conservation campaigns, including the Guanxi Francois’ langur conservation plan. 

"Francois’ langur are facing a high risk of extinction and in 2003, there were estimated to be less than 500 in Vietnam and only approximately 1400 in China. 

"The latest arrival has been named ‘Zhen’ which means ‘precious’ in Chinese and he is not only precious to the keepers who have worked with him but to the future of his own species.”

factfile

Francois’ langurs are found in the tropical forests and limestone hills of China, Vietnam and Laos. 

Adult Francois’ langurs are black in colour with white sideburns. 

Newborns are ginger in colour. This colour changes slowly until the primate is mature.

Visitors will not yet be able to see Xiao Xing and Zhen as they will continue to be cared for by Andrew over the coming weeks. 

When they are old enough they will begin to be introduced back to the family group. 

Their progress will be monitored throughout this period and they will one day rejoin the group in Belfast Zoo.

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