Rescuing A Purple Faced Green Leaf Langur

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

March 15th, 2015

I have a troop of the exotically named “Purple Faced Green Leaf Langurs” regularly visiting my garden in Sri Lanka. They’re quite a rare monkey, so I’m lucky to have them, but are unpopular with the locals as they decimate the fruit trees. They are discouraged by the letting off of fireworks aimed at them. I don’t mind them though, I have plenty of bananas, jak and mango and it’s a small price to pay for having them regard my land as a bit of a sanctuary. So Purple Faced Green Leaf Monkeys are welcome to roam my property and they frequently do. The troop comprises a large male, who stands about three feet tall, and often makes a gorilla-ish sound. “Owo owo owo owo” in a dark guttural throat. With him are various females – perhaps a harem of about twenty, and various younger monkeys and infants. When males reach adult hood they are expelled and have to go off on their own – or fight the dominant male for the right to be King

They are incredibly dexterous as they jump about the trees, but every now and then one slips, or misjudges a leap. This can be fatal, or certainly result in serious injury. Which is exactly what happened one afternoon, the monkeys peacefully grazing on leaves, when a slip, a thud, and excited chattering. A juvenile was face down on the ground, in obvious pain, clawing the grass in agony. I called the dogs in immediately, shutting them indoors, and waited to see what would happen.

They was much excitement in the trees, but no monkey would venture down to take a look at their injured colleague. It was obvious after 20 minutes that this Langur wasn’t going to be getting up anytime soon, and something needed to be done. Langurs have very sharp incisors though and can inflict a painful bite, so care needs to be taken in handling them. Best is to grab them behind the neck to keep the teeth out of reach, and to hold them by the tail, rendering them unable to grab at you with their hands or feet.

Doing so is a big step. Human scent on a Langur renders it incompatible with the rest of the Troop, who will kill any Monkey that smells of human. Care must be taken, if the creature is to have any chance of survival and reintroduction to the wild to minimize contact. The Langur, clearly dazed, was placed in a cardboard box, however couldn’t hold himself upright, while there was a huge muddy patch on his skull – he’d fallen on his head. I was concerned there was potential brain damage as his motor skills were not working.



An old towel was found, a wire attached to him to prevent him from escaping (you don’t want a panicked Langur or any other Monkey loose in your house) and he was left alone for the evening, only waking up briefly about 5 hours later when he accepted some banana and warm milk. What struck me was how similar to us they are. Holding my hand with his, and intelligence sparking from his eyes.
The next morning happily he was bright and alert and much better. Two bananas and a mango were consumed, more milk, and he was taken, still attached to the wire leash, outside, where he promptly wanted to run to the trees. This was a signal his time with us was over; he needed to be released and returned to his Troop immediately.



The wire was undone, and he bolted – not for the tree but into my garage, where he sat, slightly confused for awhile before being chased out, smartly clambering fifteen feet up a mango tree. He looked around for awhile, and it was obvious he was getting his bearings. Five minutes later he was gone.



Two days later the Troop came back through the garden, and I saw one particular juvenile taking a good hard look at the house before clambering up into the trees with the rest of them. It looked like the Langur I’d rescued, although it’s hard to get a positive ID. But I like to think so.