Technology & Science

Bouvier's red colobus monkey isn't extinct, photos show

A type of African monkey that hasn't been spotted in decades is alive after all - and researchers have taken photos of the magnificent species for the first time.

Monkey was last spotted in the Republic of Congo in the 1970s

The new images, including a close-up of a mother and baby, were snapped by independent primatologists Lieven Devreese and Gael Elie Gnondo Gobolo, who had set a goal of photographing the monkeys and figuring out how widespread they were. (Lieven Devreese)

A rare African monkey suspected to be extinct has been photographed for the first time.

The photos of the Bouvier's red colobus monkeys were taken in the swamp forests of the Republic of Congo in central Africa in February and released last week by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The society helped the researchers by providing logistical support and information about monkey calls suspected to belong to the species, during surveys it conducted in 2007 and 2014.

Before that, the last time the species was reported to have been seen was in the 1970s. It had never been photographed, but scientists knew what it looked like from museum specimens collected over 100 years ago.

The new images, including a close-up of a mother and baby, were snapped by independent primatologists Lieven Devreese and Gael Elie Gnondo Gobolo, who had set a goal of photographing the monkeys and figuring out how widespread they were.

The monkeys, which go by the scientific name Piliocolobus bouvieri, were found along the Bokiba River in the sprawling Ntokou-Pikounda National Park. The 457,200-hectare park was created by the Republic of Congo in 2012 to protect lowland gorillas.

Devreese and Gobolo were guided by local people familiar with the calls and behaviour of red colobus monkeys, of which there are several species.

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, red colobus monkeys are particularly vulnerable to hunting as they generally don't run away from humans.

Even though the rediscovered species is considered critically endangered, there's reason to be optimistic about its future.

"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," said Fiona Maisels, conservation scientist with the society and the University of Stirling, in a statement.

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