A love of wild animals led a German ornithologist to take up residence in Cuc Phuong National Forest in northern Viet Nam so that he could rescue and look after the rare leaf monkeys that inhabit the area.
Tilo and his wife
Tilo first came to this land to see an old friend in 1991. Soon after getting home, he learned about the endangered Trachypithecus francoisi delacouri of Cuc Phuong, repacked his bags and set off for Viet Nam and the park.
Spending much time trekking through dangerous forest with two park wardens, Tilo was often afraid, worn out and hungry but not enough to quench his desire to see the rare creatures for himself.
Yet it was at a market in a nearby town that he first saw them when he chanced upon two badly injured leaf monkeys for sale. He bought the pair without hesitation and took them back to the park for treatment and some tender loving care.
After that Tilo traveled to many remote places where the illegal animal trade flourished to rescue leaf monkeys and other rare species, and the forest wardens were happy to let him bring the animals back.
A tourist looks at a leaf monkey in Tilo's center
From his research, a joint Vietnamese-German rescue center was built in 1993 to save the leaf monkeys of Cuc Phuong.
Before they are set free, the recuperating monkeys spend time in a four-hectare enclosure full of trees to get used to the wild again.
“This kind of animal is like a human being in so many ways. I can see they are happy to live as nature intended,” he told us.
Thanks to Tilo and his center, 15 animal species have been saved from oblivion, six of them found only in Viet Nam. Indeed, the center is considered the best of its kind in the world.