Environment lesula

Published on September 16th, 2012 | by No Artificial

Lesula, new monkey species, identified in Africa

Researchers have identified a new species of monkey in the rainforests of Lomami Basin, in central Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the journal Plos One, Lesula (Cercopithecus lomamiensis) is only the second new monkey species to be discovered in Africa in 28 years. Discoveries of new primate species of the monkey on this continent are rare but significant.

The wide-eyed, pink-faced Lesula has a vertical nose stripe and a mane of long grizzled blond hairs and is described by the researchers as shy and calm. It typically weighs about 5.4 kg and measures about 53 cm.

Lesula lives on the ground and in trees in a 6,500 square mile habitat of the lowland rainforests in the centre of the Democratic Republic of Congo between the middle Lomami and the upper Tshuapa Rivers. Its diet is primarily fruit and plants.

The discovery occurred in 2007 when John Hart from the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation in the DRC and his wife Therese, a member of the team, first saw the species at the home of a primary school director, who was keeping a young female in the town of Opala. The Harts and their team had come to a region in central DRC to explore the mostly unknown forest within. They discovered that the locals recognized the animal as “Lesula”, and was well known by hunters.

“He [the school director] reported that he acquired the infant about two months earlier from a family member who had killed its mother in the forest near Yawende, south of Opala and west of the Lomami River,” the researchers reported. “We took photographs of the animal and made arrangements for its care. We observed and photographed this animal regularly over the next 18 months.”

Later that year, the team identified the species – which is similar in appearance to the owl-faced monkey (Cercopithecus hamlyni) but with different colouring – in the wild. Genetic examinations later confirmed it was a new species of monkey.

“This was a totally unexpected find, and we knew we had something unusual and possibly unknown when we first saw the animal. But it was not until we had the genetic and morphological analyses of our collaborating team that we knew we really had a new species,” said the Harts.

There are already worries for the a new species of monkey, as it is hunted for bush-meat. The scientists have provisionally classified it as already susceptible under the authoritative IUCN red list of threatened species.

“The challenge now is to make the lesula an iconic species that carries the message for conservation for all of Congo’s endangered fauna,” said John Hart. “Species with small ranges like the lesula can move from vulnerable to seriously endangered over the course of just a few years.”

The last monkey to be discovered in Africa was the kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji) in Tanzania in 2003, nearly 20 years after the last find, the sun-tailed monkey (Cercopithecus solatus) in Gabon, in 1984.

Plos One

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