The Son Tra Nature Reserve in central Da Nang city, known for its rich biodiversity, is home to 200 Red-Shanked Doucs - a kind of langur that was declared endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2013.

Efforts have been made by biologists to protect the primate, which only lives in east-central Laos and Vietnam, from extinction as well as from the rapid urbanisation of Da Nang.

Le Thi Trang, Deputy Director of the Biodiversity Conservation Centre (GreenViet), and her colleagues were working hard as they climbed uphill during a trek at the nature reserve. They host these for students, along with two-hour educational seminars, on Sunday afternoons.

The regular Sunday programme is part of a long-term communication campaign GreenViet started in 2009, "I Love Son Tra". The field trips, designed for students, give them a chance to learn more about wildlife and get involved with nature.

Their aim in starting the campaign is to call on people to protect nature and show their love for it by being more environmentally conscious. Students can participate in environmentally friendly activities, like collecting rubbish on Son Tra Mountain.

"We hope to educate more teens and primary school students about nature, and the importance of wildlife and habitat protection in the Son Tra Nature Reserve," Trang said. "Nearly 1,000 teenagers and kids have joined field trips to Son Tra Mountain to explore and learn about the importance of forests and protection of the endangered langur."

Trang, whose nickname is King Kong, said two primary schools in Da Nang included the programme in their extra-curricular activities.

The programme teaches kids about the reserve, which is at risk due to hunting and urbanisation. Its area also shrank from 4,900ha to its current 2,500ha between 1977 and the early 2000s.

Dr Ha Thang Long, head of the Frankfurt Zoological Society's representative office, said raising awareness about the importance of biodiversity in national parks and nature reserves was a good way for Vietnam to stay on course in its goal of protecting nature and wildlife.

"People will gradually come to understand the importance of nature and wildlife protection through education," said Long, 38.

"In 2009, the Frankfurt Zoological Society started the Vietnam Primate Conservation Programme, through which it financed research on biodiversity and langurs by Da Nang Teachers' Training College students."

Long, a langur researcher in Vietnam, said the project aimed to strengthen the capacity of young conservators working on improving biodiversity in Son Tra and Vietnam more generally.

According to the latest report from the Vietnam Association of National Parks and Nature Reserves, the country has 164 nature reserves, with a total of 2 million hectares of special-use forest. But only 10 percent of rangers have been educated on biodiversity. Only three or four of the 30 rangers working at the reserve are trained in biodiversity management.

The Frankfurt Zoological Society has followed a long-term strategy on biodiversity and langur conservation in national parks and nature reserves in Ninh Binh, Quang Binh, Khanh Hoa, Gia Lai, Dak Lak and Kon Tum since 1991, with an annual budget between 200,000 USD and 250,000 USD that helps pay for rangers to patrol the forests regularly.

"Only continuous forest patrols with sufficient financial support can effectively control illegal hunting and logging," Long said.

Meanwhile, Bui Van Tuan, a member of the Vietnam Primate Conservation Programme, offers night wildlife tours in Son Tra.

A 29-year-old biologist, Tuan has six years of experience trekking in forests and researching langurs. He doesn't do the tours for profit, but young people and nature lovers may accompany him on his night treks in the forest.

"The trip will provide young people a full view and angle of nature knowledge, and life skills for surviving in the forest," he said.

"They can then tell their friends and family members about the importance of protecting the environment and wildlife," he said, adding it will be like a night forest patrol session.

"Son Tra is a tropical evergreen forest, so it has a crowded population of wildlife flora and fauna," he said.

Son Tra is home to 200 langurs (Pygathrix nemaeus).

"The trip helps young people share their love for nature and become closer to the forest. It's the best way to educate young people about environmental protection and hunting."

Cyrill Russo, a French photographer, said Son Tra was a "green" treasure of Da Nang, with its myriad flora and fauna, beaches and unique landscapes.

Russo said the large amount of langurs in the area made the reserve an amazing part of the Son Tra Peninsula and Da Nang.

Trang from GreenViet said visitors should not litter in the forest, as it could poison the animals.

"We have launched fan page called ‘Let's Save the Red-shanked Douc in Son Tra' and another page called ‘Son Tra Little Green Guards', an education programme for kids, in a crucial effort to protect the environment of the peninsula and the rich biodiversity of the nature reserve," Trang said.

"It's a precious treasure. Protect the environment or we'll face the anger of mother nature."-VNA