The folks at the Laos Wildlife Rescue Centre (LWRC) are used to getting frantic calls from people who have learned about an animal in need.
They never say no, and they are always ready to do whatever needs to be done to take action to help the helpless and give sanctuary to the homeless.
When they received a call from someone who said they had a sick baby monkey, they agreed sight unseen to take him in. They assumed the baby would be one of the more common species they see regularly.
But, when the owner handed over the tiny box, the rescuers couldn’t believe their eyes as they looked inside.
Lying inside, barely breathing but clutching a ratty stuffed animal, was a red-shanked douc langur. Although the species is endangered, in Laos and Vietnam, red-shanked douc langurs receive very little protection.
Despite their falling numbers, they are regularly hunted and sold for their meat and body parts. Their meat is considered a delicacy, some body parts are used in traditional medicine. And, sadly, babies like the one they were being given are often caught and sold in the pet trade.
“We received a Facebook message from the ‘owner’ who was concerned about his health, as his condition deteriorated to the point where he is so weak, he is going through stages of ‘fainting’ behaviour,” Eve Mansfield, manager at LWRC, told The Dodo. “Happily the ‘owner’ was keen to hand him over to Laos Wildlife Rescue Centre so he could receive the critical treatment he needs.”
The rescue team immediately started emergency treatment on the baby they called Rattles. His diet had been the absolute wrong thing for him, so starting him on correct food was essential to his survival.
They may never know exactly what happened to Rattles. They got as much information as they could from the man, who only explained that he was the second person to “own” Rattles. he paid the US equivalent of $24 for him.
After receiving fluids intravenously, Rattles was given the first real meal he had had in weeks. He chewed slowly and enjoyed every morsel.
“His mother was sadly shot in a tree and eaten as bushmeat, and he was taken by his first owner as a pet,” Mansfield said. “We were told that in this process, Rattles fell out of a tall tree and hit the ground. The second owner bought him from the first owner because the first owner had grown bored of him and was planning to sell him as bushmeat. The second owner saved him from this fate, though still sadly kept him as a pet for a month and a half.”
For that six weeks, despite having survived an injury which required extra nutrition for healing, poor Rattles got almost no nourishment from the food he was given. Langurs survive on a high-fiber diet, eating things like leaves, buds, flowers, bark, unripe fruits and plant shoots.
Yet the owner had been feeding Rattles fruits and sweetened milk, which had barely kept the baby alive. And had damaged his stomach severely.
“This is most likely one of the reasons why Rattles is in such a critical condition,” Mansfield said. “He would have most definitely died if we didn’t go to him and give him that second chance.”
The poor little thing was so dehydrated and weak that he slept most of the time. Always curled around his stuffed animal. His only friend.
Little Rattles is still in critical condition. His new team of friends is doing everything possible to give him a chance for a full recovery.
“All we can do is try and repair the damage that others have inflicted as a result of the illegal wildlife trade,” Mansfield said. “If we can rear him successfully and rehabilitate him responsibly, there is a possibility for a life back in the wild for him.”
Their goal is to return him to a safe forest someday where he can roam free with those of his kind.