Monday, January 23, 2012

Rare Monkeys Found in Borneo!


Here at Chimpwithpencil, we like monkeys.  So imagine how excited I was when an alert reader sent a link about how scientists found a monkey thought to be extinct.  (Thanks, Olaf!)

Scientists, working in Indonesia in the forests of eastern Borneo, planted motion-sensor triggered cameras at salt licks where animals gather.  They hoped to get pictures of big cats like leopards and large primates such as orangutans, but instead caught pictures of Miller's grizzled langur (Presbytis hosei canicrus), a type of monkey thought to be extinct.  (In general, langurs are lanky-shaped monkeys with long tails.)

Initially, the scientists weren't sure they could positively identify the monkeys because there are few photographs available, so they resorted to descriptions of museum specimens. 

As mining and agriculture have expanded in Indonesia, there is less forest to support langurs and other creatures.  While rare today, these monkeys were once found throughout Indonesia and up into the Malaysian peninsula.

Beyond loss of habitat, humans pose another type of danger to these monkeys.  People once hunted the grizzled langur because of the bezoar stones in their stomachs or intestines.  These bezoar stones were mistakenly thought to cure poison.   This is similar to the case of rhino horns or tiger organs, whose use in traditional Asian medicine threatens these animals' existence.

By working together, scientists and students from Canada, Indonesia and the United States have re-discovered a creature thought to be dead.  This opens up the real possibility of saving Miller's grizzled langur.

(Here are articles from The Guardian and Science Daily.  The pic is from Eric Fell/AP.)   

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