September 13, 2012 9:30 am
Lesula (Cercopithecus lomamiensis) is the world’s newest species of monkey. Hailing from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesula is only the second new monkey species discovered in Africa over the past 28 years.
Lesula has a “shy and quiet” disposition, with “a naked face and a mane of long blond hair,” The Guardian reports. It spends its days munching on fruits and veggies and makes its home in a 6,500 square mile habitat on the ground and in the trees of the central DRC’s lowland rain forests.
Researchers from Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History first came across the species in 2007. A primary school teacher in the DRC was keeping a female Lesula as a pet. The researchers thought the animal resembled the owl-faced monkey, but with different coloring. Puzzled, they took a few samples from the teacher’s pet. Later, genetic testing confirmed their hunch: it was a new species. They published their findings in the journal PLos One.
The scientists are already fearful that the newly discovered species may be vulnerable. Though it lives in a remote area with few humans around, it is hunted for bushmeat. The school teacher who kept the original pet Lesula, for example, claimed he took the animal in as a baby after one of his family members killed the monkey’s mother in the forest. For now, Lesula is categorized as vulnerable on the IUCN red list of threatened species.
The researchers hope to turn Lesula into a flagship species for the area, thinking it could represent conservation efforts for the DRC’s endangered fauna.
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