Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Lesula: A New Species of Cercopithecus Described In The Democratic Republic of Congo

We have ourselves another new primate species. Yes, one whole new species that no one has seen before. Oh ... the native? They don't count. Just because they know of the existence of this primate species for years doesn't mean that it actually exists. It only exists when said species are described by science. Right? Of course not. I think we need to be careful when we talk about new species, especially media outlet that report these kinda stories. They are not "discovered", they are "described". Science (I'm using this in a broad sense) doesn't get to discover something if it's already known. Anyway ...

Left: Adult male Cercopithecus lomamiensis, Yawende, DRC. Photograph by M. Emetshu. Right: Subadult female Cercopithecus lomamiensis, Opala, DRC. Photograph by J. A. Hart.
Photos from Hart et al. (2012)

Hart et al. (2012) just published a paper in which they described a new monkey species known as the "lesula" to the locals. Their paper "Lesula: A New Species of Cercopithecus Monkey Endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Implications for Conservation of Congo’s Central Basin" is available on PLOS ONE if you are interested in reading it (it's free access).

The lesula or Cercopithecus lomamiensis ranges in the Tshuapa, Lomami and the Lualaba (TL2) area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They are found in the lowland rain forests of central DRC  C. lomamiensis belongs to the Cercopithecini family and is closely related to the Hamlyn's monkey or owl-faced monkey (Cercopithecus hamlyni). However, C. lomamiensis is genetically distinct from C. hamlyni as well as in morphology and vocalizations. C. lomamiensis has a lighter coat compared to C. hamlyni (see photos below). C. lomamiensis seems to have a light brown face while C. hamlyni a dark face with a white stripe on its nose.

Portraits: Captive adult male Cercopithecus hamlyni (upper left), photo by Noel Rowe, with permission; and captive adult male Cercopithecus lomamiensis (upper right), Yawende, DRC, photo by Maurice Emetshu. Lateral view: Hunter-killed adult male Cercopithecus hamlyni (bottom left), photo by Gilbert Paluku; and eagle-killed subadult female Cercopithecus lomamiensis (bottom right), photo by Gilbert Paluku.
Photos from Hart et al. (2012)
C. lomamiensis are semi terrestrial and subsist on terrestrial herbaceous vegetation (herbivory). And yes, to answer the burning question, both C. lomamiensis and C. hamlyni have blue perineum and scrotum. This is definitely interesting news, if not, an urgent call for conservation efforts in the DRC area. C. lomamiensis is the second new primate species to be described recently in Africa after the kipunji, Rungwecebus kipunji

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Loris Awareness Week

Since September 16th is Loris Awareness Week, I'd like to call into attention the illegal primate pet trade that is getting worse and needs to be stopped. Primates are taken out of their natural habitat and illegally smuggled out to be turned into "cute" house pets. We won't be helping if we all think that primates make good pets and that you want to own one because "they are cute". Instead we should educate ourselves on why some animals are just not meant to be pets (adopt a shelter dog or cat instead!). Besides being turned into house pets, some primates are also taken from the wild so that they can be "movie stars". I implore you, my readers, to not support any movies or TV shows that use primates as animal actors. If you do not want to boycott the movie or show, at least understand why the only primate that should be actors are humans.

There are purportedly "cute" videos of slow lorises popping up on Youtube, in which, I generally watch in horror and disbelieve. I won't link any of these videos on this post but a quick search for "Tickling Slow Loris" would bring you to one such video. As a New Yorker, I only have one response to that video. "The slow loris is scared and is in a defensive posture, stupid!" But I digress. Besides being turned into pets, slow lorises are also hunted for traditional medicine.

Illegal Wildlife Trade fact sheet from  Dr Anna Nekaris's Little Fireface Project website
I wouldn't do any justice on these cute prosimians but head on to Dr Anna Nekaris's Little Fireface Project to read about her work on slow lorises and her team's effort to save slow lorises through better awareness and education.