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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Extinct monkey reappeared in Borneo

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Scientists working in the jungles of Indonesia have rediscovered a large grey monkey so rare that many had believed it was extinct.

The scientists were baffled to find the Miller's grizzled langur in an area well outside its previously recorded home range.

A team of experts set up camera traps in the Wehea forest, on the eastern tip of Borneo island, in June, hoping to capture images of clouded leopards, orangutans and other wildlife known to congregate at several mineral salt licks.

The pictures that came back caught them by surprise – groups of monkeys none had ever seen.

With virtually no photographs of the species in existence, the scientists faced a challenge to confirm their suspicions, Brent Loken, a PhD student at Simon Fraser University in Canada and one of the lead researchers, said. The only images available were museum sketches.

"We were all pretty ecstatic. The fact that, wow, this monkey still lives, and also that it's in Wehea," Loken said.

The team of local and international scientists published their findings in the American Journal of Primatology on Friday

The monkey once roamed the north-eastern part of Borneo, as well as the islands of Sumatra and Java and the Thai-Malay peninsula. Concerns were voiced several years ago that it might be extinct.

Forests in which the monkeys once lived had been destroyed by fires, human encroachment and conversion of land for agriculture and mining. An extensive field survey in 2005 found no evidence of the species.

"For me, the discovery of this monkey is representative of so many species in Indonesia," Loken said. "There are so many animals we know so little about, and their home ranges are disappearing so quickly. It feels like a lot of these animals are going to quickly enter extinction."

The scientists' next step will be to return to the 38,000-hectare (90,000-acre) forest to try to find out how many grizzly langurs there are.

They appear in more than 4,000 images captured over a two-month period, Loken said, but added that it was possible one or two families had kept returning.

"It's indeed a highly enigmatic species," Erik Meijaard, a conservation scientist who spent more than eight years doing field research in the area, said.

In the past, grizzly langurs were hunted to near extinction for their meat and the bezoar "stones" that can, on occasion, be found in their guts, he said. Bezoars are believed by some to neutralise poison.

Source: Guardian

 
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