Today let's consider one of the rarest animals in the world, the Tonkin Snub Nosed Monkey (scientific name: Rhinopithecus avunculus). The Tonkin Monkey lives in the forests of northern Viet Nam in a handful of provinces, and only about 300 of these monkeys still exist.
The IUCN (or International Union for Conservation of Nature) lists the Tonkin Monkey as critically endangered. At IUCN, they use the following scale: Not evaluated, Data deficient, Least concern, Near threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically endangered, Extinct in the wild, and Extinct. So the Tonkin Monkey is just one step away from Extinct in the wild, which means it would only exist in zoos.
Left alone, Tonkin Monkeys form groups centered around one male and a dozen or so females and young. Unattached males form bachelor groups, and the feeding areas of the various groups may overlap. Tonkin Monkeys spend their days in hillside forests, eating leaves and fruit. Data on their size is limited, but one male weighed 32 pounds/14.5 kilograms, and three females weighed an average of 18 pounds/8.3 kilograms.
The Tonkin Monkeys have faced all sorts of threats in the last 50 years, including logging, dam building, wars and gold mining. Current threats include changing habitat due to deforestation and agriculture, and hunting. Tonkin Monkeys are hunted for use in traditional Asian medicines, and products made from them have been found in China.
In the early 1990s, an effort was made to educated villages in the monkeys' range about their status as critically endangered. However, the demand for 'bush meat' and lack of effective enforcement keeps these monkeys at risk.
When human demands collide with animals, the animals always lose. As with so many other cases, education is key. If people in China had better access to modern medicine and understood that their demand for Tonkin Monkey products is destroying this species, they might change their habits. Likewise, in Viet Nam, hunter education and better farming practices would help preserve the remaining monkeys and give them a chance to re-grow their numbers.