Primatologists have discovered a new species of monkey living in a remote forested region of northern Myanmar (Burma) which is under threat from logging and a Chinese dam project.
The research, published in the American Journal of Primatology, describes the monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri) as having almost entirely blackish fur with white fur only on ear tufts, chin beard and perineal area. It also has a relatively long tail, approximately 140 percent of its body size.
Scientists were alerted to the monkey’s presence by hunters who said it was easy to find in the rain because its upturned nostrils made it prone to sneezing when water dripped in.
Sightings were reported from the eastern Himalayas to the northeastern Kachin state leading the team to conduct field surveys which led to the discovery of a small population of a new species which displays characteristics unlike any other snub-nosed species previously described.
Although the species is new to science, the local people are very familiar with it. Locals told scientists that to avoid getting rainwater in their noses the monkeys spend rainy days sitting with their heads tucked between their knees.
Unfortunately, the future of the mey nwoah, or ‘monkey with an upturned face’ is quite uncertain.
Scientists estimate that there are between 260 and 330 of the monkeys living in an area of about 270 sq km (100 sq miles). The area is being developed by China Power Investment Corp. as a new dam site, and many fear that construction and logging roads invading the area could negatively affect the critically endangered species.
Frank Momberg, of Fauna and Flora International and a co-author of the study, said that the company has an economic interest in preserving the forested region where the monkeys live.
“More roads and logging would cause erosion around the watershed that could clog up the new reservoir with silt, reducing power generation, he said.”