Primate Rescue Center

Back From the Dead: Monkey Feared Extinct is Spotted in Remote Rainforest for First Time in 50 Years

Erika Fleury April 30, 2015

A monkey that was thought to have died out more than 50 years ago has been discovered alive in the remote rain forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Primatologists working in Ntokou-Pikounda National Park have captured the first ever picture of the Bouvier's red colobus monkey. Their discovery proves that the primate - which was first discovered in 1887 and is only known from three specimens - is not extinct.

This is the first ever photograph of the Bouvier's red colobus monkey, which was thought to be extinct. Image courtesy Lieven Devreese/WCS.

Researchers now hope to study the monkey in an attempt to learn more about it.

Mr Devreese said: 'Our photos are the world's first and confirm that the species is not extinct. No one knows anything about them. They live in an area where scientists rarely go, along the banks of a river a in a very inaccessible area.'

Mr Devreese spent three months, after setting off in February, searching the jungles of Congo in an attempt to find the Bouvier red colobus monkeys, or Piliocolobus bouvieri. Together with his Congelese colleagues, he visited remote villages to ask locals if they had seen them and traced the locations of unconfirmed reports of sightings.

A group of the monkeys were discovered living in the forests that sit along the Bokiba River in the Ntokou-Pikounda National Park. However, they found that the creatures appear to be extremely vulnerable to hunters involved in the commercial bushmeat trade in the area. Red colobus monkeys are among the largest primates in the forests of Congo and are prized by hunters. The animals are also poor at recognising threats, often believing they are safe in the trees. Rather than fleeing, red colobus monkeys tend to look down at humans from the trees. The last unconfirmed sighting of a Bouvier's red colobus monkey was in the 1970s and they are mentioned in a book from 1949 as living in swamp forests aong the Likouala and Sangha rivers. The only previous examples of them had been collected more than 100 years ago.

In his attempt to rediscover the monkeys, Mr Devreese launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the expedition on Indiegogo.

Dr Fiona Maisels, from the Wildlife Conservation Society, said: 'We’re very pleased indeed that Lieven and Gaël were able to achieve their objective of not only confirming that Bouvier’s red colobus still exists, but also managing to get a very clear close-up picture of a mother and infant. 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.'

James Deutsch, vice president for conservation strategy at the WCS, added: 'Confirmation that Bouvier’s red colobus still thrives in the this area reminds us that there remain substantially intact wild places on Earth, and should re-energize all of us to save them before it is too late.'

- The Daily Mail

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