A rare African monkey believed to be extinct was spotted again by researchers, who returned from a remote Congo forest in March with the first pictures of the red primate.
Until this year, scientists hadn’t seen the Bouvier’s red colobus monkey in the wild for nearly fifty years. The small African monkey lives in groups in swamp forests along the Congo River, in the Republic of the Congo. Hunting and logging sent the species nearly into extinction, leading some scientists to suggest the species had been wiped out entirely. But they were clearly wrong.
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A team of independent explorers have rediscovered the rare monkey. Researchers Lieven Devreese of Belgium and Gaël Elie Gnondo Gobolo of the Republic of the Congo, embarked on a journey in February intended to track down the elusive species. Their expedition was supported by donations collected through crowdfunding website Indiegogo, and funding from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
“Our photos are the world’s first [of the monkey], and confirm that the species is not extinct,” Devreese said in a statement.
There are several species of red colobus monkey. Until now, scientists only knew of the Bouvier’s red species from museum specimens collected over 100 years ago.
The particular colobus monkey shows little fear of humans, likely because it is so vulnerable to bushmeat hunters. Instead of fleeing hunters or curious scientists, the monkeys look down at them from the trees. This makes the large groups easy pickings for the bushmeat trade, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“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,” Fiona Maisels, a biologist and expert on Central Africa for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in the statement.
Devreese and Gobolo called upon locals help to find the red colobus monkey. This helped narrow down where remaining colobus groups might live.