December 8, 2008

Snub-Nosed Monkeys In Danger

A research team found that a new sub-population of monkeys in Vietnam is in danger of extinction.

Fauna and Flora International biologists said they had found up to 20 Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys in a remote forest.

The team was encouraged that they also found three infant snub-nosed monkeys, a sign that could mean the monkeys are breeding and increasing in number.

Before the discovery of the sub-population, scientists believed less than 250 of the primates were in existence.

"When I saw the Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys, I was overjoyed," said biologist Le Khac Quyet.

"This new discovery further underlines the importance of learning more about the monkeys' range and distribution.

"There is still time to save this unique species, but with 200 or so left and the threat still strong, we need to act now," he added.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the monkeys as Critically Endangered because their numbers have continued to decline due to intensive hunting and deforestation.

Before the recent discovery, monkeys had only been recorded in a few Northeastern areas within Vietnam, with no group exceeding 50 mature adults.

The Red List warned that the loss of habitat and human encroachment had "dramatically restricted" the animals' distribution.

Researchers said the monkeys' inquisitive nature also meant that they did not flee when approached by humans, increasing the risk of being shot by hunters.

However, Fauna and Flora International (FFI) hopes the discovery of the new sub-population will lead to increased efforts to protect the primates' remaining habitat.

"All recent indications suggest that we have a fantastic opportunity to secure this population and significantly increase the chances of survival of this species," said Paul Insua-Cao, FFI's Vietnam primate program manager.

Biologists observing the monkeys said they seemed scared of people, and issued warning signs to each other; the FFI team suggested that this group had associated humans with danger, perhaps as a result of ongoing threats from hunters.

A global assessment of the world's primates published in August warned that 48% of the order faced extinction.

The threats include habitat loss through deforestation, hunting of primates for food, and the illegal wildlife trade.

The FFI team hopes its work, co-funded by the UK government, will ease the pressures on the Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys' habitat.

Image Courtesy Wildlife Direct


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