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Monkey Believed to be Extinct Spotted in Congo Forest

Apr 17, 2015 04:10 PM EDT
Bouvier's red colobus

(Photo : Lieven Devreese)

A rare monkey some believed to be extinct has recently been spotted in the forests of the Republic of Congo after successfully evading scientists for more than half a century, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The Bouvier's red colobus monkey (Piliocolobus bouvieri), a critically endangered species, was last sighted in the 1970s. And while surveys by WCS had previously recorded red colobus in what is now Ntokou-Pikounda National Park in 2007 and 2014, they were rarely encountered and not caught on camera. However, recently two primatologists managed to take the first-ever photograph of the monkey in Ntokou-Pikounda National Park.

"Our photos are the world's first and confirm that the species is not extinct," primatologist Lieven Devreese, co-lead investigator, said in a news release.

What's more, the photos show not just one monkey but two - a mother and her infant.

Bouvier's red colobus is a species of monkey endemic to the Republic of Congo, but unfortunately scientists don't know much more than that. Hopefully this latest photograph will help to provide insight on its habitat, behavior and environment.

The species was first described in 1887 and is only known from a couple of museum specimens collected from three areas over 100 years ago. It has been considered a subspecies of a larger colobus taxonomic group in the past, but currently it's listed as a full species.

It is thought that the red colobus can be found in the swamp forests between the lower Likouala and Sangha Rivers, as well as along the Alima River farther to the south, but that's just based on one description made in 1949.

While no exact estimates are known, scientists believe the Bouvier's red colobus is a critically endangered species. It currently lives in Ntokou-Pikounda National Park, a 4,572-square-kilometer (1,765-square-mile) protected area that not only protects these elusive monkeys but also gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, and other species.

"Thankfully, many of these colobus monkeys live in the recently gazetted national park and are protected from threats such as logging, agriculture, and roads, all of which can lead to increased hunting," said WCS's Dr. Fiona Maisels.

What's more, "confirmation that Bouvier's red colobus still thrives in the this area reminds us that there remain substantially intact wild places on Earth," added WCS's James Deutsch, "and should re-energize all of us to save them before it is too late."

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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