Taronga Zoo vet helps give endangered animals a chance at survival.
Like a modern-day Noah, Dr Larry Vogelnest is saving the world's animals two at a time.
The senior veterinarian at Sydney's Taronga Zoo recently travelled to Vietnam to assist in a difficult mission to rescue a pair of monkeys whose species is believed to number fewer than 50 in the world.
Animal conservationists had discovered a pair of the Cat Ba langurs – found exclusively on Cat Ba Island – and Vogelnest joined a team whose job it was to capture them in order to attach radio transmitters that would allow them to be tracked and studied when they returned to the wild.
“Through this job I felt that I could really make a significant difference to saving a species from extinction,” Vogelnest says of the mission.
Amid “incredibly rugged terrain” it was his job to scale a 15-metre cliff to a cave where the two langurs had been located, equipped with a dart gun he used to tranquilise them.
“It was the first time anyone had ever anaesthetised this species of monkey and there is no health data or anything on this species,” he says.
“We were the first people probably ever to take a blood sample from this species animal and of course thinking that we were dealing with 4 per cent of the population was pretty nerve wracking, we didn't want them to die.”
Tracking devices were successfully attached to the primates and after a boat trip to a new location they were released. Six days later the team used radio tracking to check in on the langurs.
“Probably one of the most exciting things about seeing them again was that there were two other langurs that had joined them. Of course, having a male there meant there was a reasonable chance that they would breed.”
Vogelnest has up to 4000 animals under his supervision every day but says he gets a buzz from projects such as the langur mission.
“The important thing for me is that I'd like to see people appreciate the intrinsic worth of other creatures on this planet. It is very rewarding to know that a lot of the stuff I do is contributing something, it makes me feel good.”