Red-shanked Douc

The red-shanked douc (Pygathrix nemaeus) is a species of Old World monkey and probably the most colorful of mammals. This colorful and attractive primate is sometimes called the “costumed ape” for its extravagant appearance. This colorful monkey looks like a little Buddha, wearing a gray shirt and black shorts. It has sports maroon-red stockings and white forearm length gloves. Its attire is finished with black hands and feet. A white ruff that is considerably fluffier in males frames the golden face. The eyelids are a soft powder blue. The tail is white with a triangle of white hair at the base. Males of all ages have a white spot on both sides of the corners of the rump patch. The females don’t have these. Males have red and white genitals.


All doucs are native to Southeast Asia, specifically the countries Cambodia, China, Laos and Vietnam. The red-shanked douc is only found in north and central Vietnam and Laos. Doucs are found in a variety of habitats. They are found from lowland to mountainous terrain up to 6,600 feet (2,000 m). Their habit consists of deciduous, Primary Rainforest and Secondary Rainforest rainforests. They live in the mid to upper levels of the canopy.


The red-shanked douc is a long slender monkey. They are 24.02 to 29.92 inches (61 to 76 cm) tall. The tail is 22.05 to 29.92 inches (56 to 76 cm) long, with males slightly larger than females. Males weigh up to 15 pounds (7 kg), females up to 11 pounds (5 kg). No color differences between genders (except for the rump spots).

Behavior, mating, reproduction and lifespan

Doucs are social animals and they live in groups, with an average size of 4 to 15 members. There have been groups of up to 50 have been recorded. A group usually consists of 1 or more males and approximately 2 females per male. Both males and females have their own hierarchies and males are dominant to females. Both males and females leave the group they were born in.

Its tail is not adapted for grasping. It uses its tail solely for balance, and uses its arms and legs to move through the forest. When on the move, the group is led by adult males. The juvenile males bring up the rear and the females and infants safe in the middle. This douc is an aerial specialist, high up in the canopy. It is very agile and frequently makes breath-taking leaps of up to 20 feet (6 m). It leaps with its arms outstretched over its head, pushing off with its legs and landing on two feet first.

When the group is untroubled, the red-shanked douc will move noisily from branch to branch. It goes through the trees, crashing through foliage, swinging under branches and leaping with two feet together. This displays its remarkable sense of balance. When either a predator or other dangers disturb a group, it can flee soundlessly through the trees away from danger. If it gets startled, it can give loud barks and rush around the trees slapping branches with its hands and feet. In contrast to how loud it can be when traveling, most of the time it is rather quiet. It is normally found eating, digesting its bulky food, dozing and quietly grooming each other’s fur.

This monkey communicates by facial expressions. It has a specific play face with the mouth open, teeth partially bared and chin thrust forward. Sometimes, it closes its eyes and paws blindly towards one another with remarkable disregard for the hazards of doing this when up a tree. Its fixed stare is a threat display. A grimace with the mouth open and the teeth exposed is a submissive gesture given in response to a stare. It is also used to initiate grooming or play. The red-shanked douc has a low-pitched growl that is given as a threat. It sounds like a short, harsh distress squeal.

This douc has been rarely observed in the wild and very little is known about its wild mating and breeding habits. Before mating, both genders give a sexual signal with the jaw forward. Their eyebrows are raised and then lowered, and then they give a headshake. The female makes the first move. They lie facedown on a branch, eyeing her chosen mate by looking over her shoulder. The male returns with a stare and may turn to look at another spot he considers more suitable for mating. Single-mount and multiple-mount mating have been reported.

Mating takes place from August to December. The pregnancy lasts 165 to 190 days resulting in the birth of a single offspring just before fruiting season of some favorite foods. Twins are very rare. The young are born with their eyes wide open and they cling to their mothers instinctively. Its body coloration is lighter than an adult’s. Its short, downy grey hair has a dark stripe down the back. It has a black face and two pale stripes beneath the eyes. As it grows older, it darkens while its face lightens. They achieve adult colors at 10 months. In captivity, other group members may look after an infant, and other females may even suckle it

Prey and predator

The red-shanked douc is diurnal and eats and sleeps in the trees of the forest. Its diet consists mostly of leaves high in fibers. It has a large stomach, which is divided into sacs containing bacteria that break down the cellulose in the leaves through fermentation. This gives the douc its pot-bellied look. This also makes it burp a lot from the resulting gas. It prefers to eat small, young and tender leaves. It will also eat fruit like figs, buds, petioles, flowers, bamboo shoots and seeds. It gets all the liquid and protein it needs from the food it eats and doesn’t need to descend to the ground to drink. This monkey eats 50 different plant species but no animal prey. It is a messy and chaotic feeder, dropping much of its food onto the forest floor. It eats peacefully together, not quarreling over food, and has been known to share it with others. It will share the same clump of foliage and may even break pieces off and hand them to each other. This is a type of active generosity that is rare among Old World monkeys. It does not have cheek pouches. This diet provides them with adequate protein and fluids.

The main predator of the red-shanked douc is a human. It is threatened throughout its limited range by habitat destruction and hunting. Native people hunt it for food and body parts, which are used in traditional medicine. There is also a very lucrative and illegal wildlife trade for the red-shanked douc.