Researchers have identified a new species, cercopithecus lomamiensis, or “lesula” for short. The big-eyed, bearded primate was officially unveiled yesterday in an article in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
The monkey was first spotted in June 2007, when the scientists chanced upon what the article calls “a captive juvenile female of an unknown species at the residence of the primary-school director in the town of Opala in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The monkey was the pet of the director’s daughter Georgette, CNN reports. The unnamed school director told the researchers that the species was already well known to local hunters.
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According to the scientists, a lesula typically weighs about 5.4 kg and measures about 53 cm. They have established that its habitat extends about 17,100 sq km across Congo’s eastern central basin. While they are targeted by local hunters, their habitat is still too remote to be threatened by logging or mining.
The lesula is only the second monkey species discovered in 28 years, the scientists write. Two years ago, scientists discovered another monkey species in the lush forests in Burma’s northeastern border region to China — the sneezing monkey, a.k.a. rhinopithecus strykeri. Because of logging and hunting, the species is almost extinct, with only an estimated 260 to 330 individuals left, according to an estimate by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
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