An expedition to the Colombian Amazon has just revealed a new species of titi monkey that's the size of a house-cat and sports a bushy red beard, Conservation International announced today. The discovery is also described in the journal Primate Conservation.
Titi monkeys hail from South America and are territorial, monogamous, and always possess furry, never prehensile, tails. Most have a white, bar-shaped patch of fur on their foreheads, but the new monkey, Callicebus
caquetensis, is an exception, as you can see.
(Photos: Javier Garcia)
(These images also come to mind, but that's too much pop culture…)
Scientists Thomas Defler, Marta Bueno and Javier García discovered the new monkey in what is known as the Department of Caquetá, Colombia. They couldn't celebrate for long, however, as they realized this species is critically endangered due to rapid loss of its forest home.
Caquetá has experienced political unrest for many years. Due to the presence of insurgent groups, travel to this region was extremely difficult. García, however, grew up there, and had heard talk about the mysterious, yet previously undescribed, monkey. He was able to examine the local wildlife while hiking and using GPS. Doing this, he found 13 groups of the new monkey, which has a very distinctive, complex call.
Crank up your volume a bit and listen to the call here:
“This discovery is extremely exciting because we had heard
about this animal, but for a long time we could not confirm if it was different
from other titis," said Defler. "We now know that this is a unique species, and it shows the
rich diversity of life that is still to be discovered in the Amazon."
In addition to the other mentioned features, Callicebus
caquetensis has grayish-brown hair and a long tail stippled with gray.
Titi monkeys such as this form life-long relationships. Pairs are often seen sitting on a branch with their tails entwined. They
usually have one baby per year. As a new baby arrives, the parents force the
oldest baby to leave to allow them to focus on the newborn.
(An illustration of some titi monkeys; Credit Stephen Nash)
The families of this new titi species
stick together in groups of about 4 individuals and can be seen in the trees
close to some of the main rivers of Caquetá. But, according to CI, this newly discovered species is struggling to survive.
It is estimated that less than 250 Caquetá titi monkeys exist — a healthy
population should be in the thousands. The main reason for this small number is
the degradation of the forests in the area, which have been felled for
agricultural land. It is very dangerous, and sometimes impossible, for these
animals to move to other patches of forest as they have to cross grassy
savannah or barbed wire fences to reach them.
The researchers ask that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classify this new monkey as Critically Endangered, meaning it faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.
“This discovery is particularly important because it reminds
us that we should celebrate the diversity of Earth but also we must take action
now to preserve it,” said José Vicente Rodríguez, head of science at
Conservation International in Colombia and president of the Colombia
Association of Zoology. “When world leaders meet later this year in
Japan for the Convention on Biological Diversity, they must commit to the
creation of many more protected areas if we want to ensure the survival of
threatened creatures like this in the Amazon and around the world.”