Rare Monkey Thought to Be Extinct, Photographed in Congo Forest

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Apr 19, 2015 02:31 PM EDT

A rare African monkey thought to have been long extinct was photographed by researchers in a forest in the Republic of Congo.

The rare red primate called Bouvier's Red Columbus Monkey was photographed by two primatologists working in Congo's Ntokou-Pikounda National Park. According to scientists, the monkey hasn't been seen since the 1970s believing hunting and logging as the primary reasons for its extinction, according to Live Science.

The two independent researchers, Lieven Devreese of Belgium and Gaël Elie Gnondo Gobolo of the Republic of the Congo first set off for their crowd-funded expedition in February and returned with the prized photograph of the monkeys.

"Our photos are the world's first [of the monkey], and confirm that the species is not extinct," Devreese said in a WCS news release. Wildlife Conservation Society also funded the trip.

"We're very pleased indeed that Lieven and Gaël were able to achieve their objective of not only confirming that Bouvier's red colobus still exists, but also managing to get a very clear close-up picture of a mother and infant," said Dr. Fiona Maisels from WCS.  "Thankfully, many of these colobus monkeys live in the recently gazetted national park and are protected from threats such as logging, agriculture, and roads, all of which can lead to increased hunting."

Bouvier's red colobus (Piliocolobus bouvieri) is a species of monkey endemic to Congo and was first described in 1887 from hundred-year-old museum specimens. Nothing much is known about this particular. However, a book written in 1949 said that the monkeys "live in the swamp forests between the lower Likouala and Sangha Rivers, as well as along the Alima River farther to the south," as noted in the release.

According to Discovery News, Devreese and Gobolo employed the help of the locals to differentiate monkeys and their respective calls. This approach helped determine where the monkeys are believed to be. The explorers began in the town of Owando then canoed in the Likouala River.

The monkey's sighting was first discovered on the Bokiba River of Ntokou-Pikounda National Park, an area in Congo that protects wild animals such as chimpanzees, elephants, and gorillas.

The discovery was posted on the researchers Indiegogo page. "We are proud to present the world's first picture of Bouvier's red colobus monkey! In the meantime the word has spread: if you type a few keywords in Google, you'll find multiple articles on the web. Thank you all for supporting my project and so contributing to the rediscovery of this unique red colobus monkey."

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