Mia's trip of a lifetime

When Mia Derhé went travelling in Vietnam she was so shocked by the way monkeys were treated that she pledged to do something about it.

When Mia Derhé went travelling in Vietnam she was so shocked by the way monkeys were treated that she pledged to do something about it.

One year on and the Lowestoft graduate is planning to embark on an adventure of a lifetime to help save the world's rarest primate.

In February, the 25-year-old will travel to the remote, densely forested, tropical Cao Bang Province in northern Vietnam to join a conservation project working to save the Cao Vit gibbon.

The gibbon, also known as the Eastern black crested gibbon, was branded the rarest in the world in 2002 after scientists revealed there were just 26 in existence. Recent surveys carried out by Fauna and Flora International, the organisation Miss Derhé will join for the project, estimate numbers have now risen to 40.

But ongoing deforestation, caused by local villagers using wood for fuel, and the major damage caused to the nation's forests during the Vietnam War by the spraying of defoliants such as Agent Orange, have all taken their toll on the population.

Now the Cao Vit Gibbon Conservation Project is working to protect the gibbon by safeguarding its habitat, encouraging breeding and through continued research into its behaviour and ecology. And in seven months' time Miss Derhé, who studied biology at UEA, will give up her home in Oulton Broad, Lowestoft and move to Hanoi, to take up a one-year place on the project.

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“I'm really excited about it,” she said. “I went to Vietnam for two months in September travelling with my boyfriend, and the way monkeys are treated is really awful.

“You visit a monastery and there are cages and cages of wild monkeys because that's what some people think the tourists want to see. I decided there and then I wanted to come back and do something about it.

“It's also about education, and knowing how endangered these species are. It is really sad, there are some wonderful animals in Vietnam but they don't really have eco-tourism,” she said.

She added: “I have always been interested in conservation and now I will be able to use a lot that I learned during my degree. Out there I'm going to be helping to study the species and find out how they live, which trees they prefer and what other species are living out there. We will also be looking at the offspring, how they are surviving and what can be done to help them have more young. I'm really looking forward to it.”