New Monkey Faces Old Threats

August 7, 2008

Poaching and illegal logging have driven Tanzania’s kipunji monkey, discovered just three years ago, to the brink of extinction in its tiny forest home.

The future for a large primate in a tiny patch of African forest looks bleak. Just three years after it was discovered, Tanzania’s kipunji monkey is threatened with extinction according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which published the first-ever census of the endangered primate in the July issue of the journal Oryx.

WCS researchers conducted more than 2,800 hours of fieldwork in the Southern Highlands and Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania, where the kipunji was discovered. The team tallied just 1,117 individuals, and found that the monkey’s range is restricted to 6.82 square miles of forest in two isolated regions.

The authors also discovered that illegal logging and land conversion has severely degraded much of the monkey’s remaining habitat. In addition, poachers target the monkey for bushmeat. Because of these combined threats, WCS proposes that the kipunji should be classified by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as “critically endangered.” This designation indicates a species threatened with extinction in the wild if immediate conservation action is not taken.

“The kipunji is hanging on by the thinnest of threads,” said Dr. Tim Davenport, Tanzania country director for WCS. “We must do all we can to safeguard this extremely rare and little understood species while there is still time.”

WCS is investing in the protection and restoration of the kipunji’s remaining habitat and helping to educate local people to safeguard remaining populations.

The kipunji first made headlines in 2005 when a team of scientists led by WCS announced its discovery. Then in 2006, the monkey made news again when DNA analysis revealed that the species represented an entire new genus of primate—the first since 1923.

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