Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 29th, 2008
Found only three years ago in its tiny forest home in Tanzania, a monkey species may soon be extinct.
The kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji and also known as the Highland Mangabey) was discovered in 2005 in the Southern Highlands and Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania. In 2006, genetic analyses revealed the species represented an entire new genus of primate — the first since 1923.
“The kipunji is hanging on by the thinnest of threads,” said Tim Davenport, Tanzania country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). “We must do all we can to safeguard this extremely rare and little understood species while there is still time.”
The WCS has published a census of the endangered primate, revealing 1,117 individuals of the species reside in two isolated forest regions spanning less than 7 square miles (18 square kilometers). The animals live in 38 groups, each with 15 to 39 members.
The forest-dweller sports long whiskers and a crest of hair on the tip of its head. The monkey is known for its unique honk-bark call.
WCS researchers found that much of the monkey’s remaining habitat is severely degraded by illegal logging and land conversion. This loss of habitat along with the monkey being hunted by poachers has WCS scientists worried about the species’ survival.
WCS officials are proposing that that the kipunji be classified by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as “critically endangered,” which means the species is threatened with extinction in the wild if immediate conservation action is not taken.