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New African Monkey Species Identified, Needs Protection from Hunters

Sep 13, 2012 08:29 AM EDT

Researchers have identified a new monkey species in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa.

The monkey locally known as 'lesula' was first found in the forests in the middle Lomami Basin in central Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2007. Researchers have now confirmed that the species has so far not scientifically been described.

The study published in the online journal PLOS ONE has described the physical aspects, ecology and behavior of the new monkey species.

Experts named the new species Cercopithecus lomamiensis and found that they are nearest relatives to C. hamlyni, both the species separated by the Congo (Lualaba) and the Lomami Rivers. They described the facial and physical features of the C. lomamiensis suggesting that the monkey species was medium-sized, long-limbed and had a slender body.

"A mane of long grizzled blond hairs frames a protruding pale, naked face and muzzle, with a variably distinct cream colored vertical nose stripe," the researchers described the monkey on the paper.

The shy animal was first spotted in 2007 by a primary school director in the town of Opala in DRC in captivity. Later, scientists analyzed several other monkeys of the same species held as captive by the local hunters. Finally, they found the first species in the wild in the Obenge area in December 2007, the scientists wrote on the paper.

C. lomamiensis is found to be roaming in the dense previously unexplored forests covering a range of about 6,500 square miles. Despite the forest area being very remote, scientists have raised concerns about the 'lesulas' being vulnerable to hunting as they are targeted for bush meat, which is thriving in the markets, reported BBC.

"The challenge for conservation now in Congo is to intervene before losses become definitive," researcher John Hart of the Lukuru Foundation, who led the project, told BBC.

"Species with small ranges like the lesula can move from vulnerable to seriously endangered over the course of just a few years," he said.

Hart is currently working with the local people in the region to set up a national park, the Lomami National Park, in order to protect the new monkey species as well as other unidentified species, if any, located in the forests.

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