Thu May 19, 2005 3:56 PM GMT+02:00
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two separate teams of researchers working hundreds of miles (kilometres) apart have discovered a new species of monkey in Tanzania.
The highland mangabey is the first new species of monkey identified in 20 years and conservationists immediately said the find showed how important it was to preserve African forests.
The highland mangabey is a medium-sized monkey, about 3 feet (90 cm) tall with a long tail, long brown fur, a black face, hands and feet.
Adults make a distinctive, loud, low-pitched "honk-bark" call. They live in mountainside trees at elevations of up to 8,000 feet (2,400 metres).
Fewer than 1,000 of the animals live in the highland forest, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science. Hunters had described the animals but no scientist had identified them.
"If this small population is to be protected in perpetuity, the Udzungwa Mountains National Park needs to be extended to include the Ndundulu Forest," Trevor Jones of Tanzania's Udzungwa Mountains National Park and colleagues there and at the University of Georgia, Conservation International and Wildlife Conservation Society, wrote in their report.
"This exciting discovery demonstrates once again how little we know about our closest living relatives, the nonhuman primates," said Russell Mittermeier, chairman of the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN-The World Conservation Union's Species Survival Commission.
"A large, striking monkey in a country of considerable wildlife research over the last century has been hidden right under our noses."
The monkey, scientifically named Lophocebus kipunji, will likely be classified as a critically endangered species.
"Clearly this remarkable discovery shows that there are still wild places where humans are not the dominant species," said John Robinson, director of international conservation programs for the WCS.
"This new species of monkey should serve as a living symbol that there is hope in protecting not only wild places like Tanzania's Southern Highlands, but the wonder and mystery they contain," Robinson said in a statement.
Earlier this month U.S. bird experts announced the discovery of an ivory-billed woodpecker, a species feared extinct for decades, in a remote Arkansas bayou.