Snub-Nosed Monkey Sneezes When It Rains

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A new species of snub-nosed monkey, described in the American Journal of Primatology, has such an upturned nose that it causes the monkey to sneeze when it rains.

(Image Credit: Thomas Geissmann)

The new species, Rhinopithecus Strykeri, was found after hunters reported seeing an unusual monkey with prominent lips and wide upturned nostrils. The hunters noticed the monkey in regions extending from the eastern Himalayas to the northeastern Kachin State.

Although the monkey is new to science, the hunters and other people in the area said they were very familiar with it. They claim that the monkey is very easy to find when it is raining because the poor primates often get rainwater in their upturned noses, which causes them to sneeze.

To avoid getting rainwater in their noses, the locals say the monkeys spend rainy days sitting with their heads tucked between their knees.

Probably hoping for rain and listening for sneezes, field biologist Ngwe Lwin from the Myanmar Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association took a team of primatologists from Fauna & Flora International on an expedition to look for the monkey. They succeeded in locating a small population of the unique snub-nosed species.

Thomas Geissmann, who also worked on the project, describes the monkey as having almost entirely blackish fur with white fur only on its ear tufts, chin beard and part of its behind. It also has a relatively long tail, approximately 140% of its body size. Locals call the monkey mey nwoah, meaning “monkey with an upturned face.”

(Martin Aveling/Fauna & Flora International)

The new monkey’s population only consists of 260-330 individuals, according to the primatologists, so the species is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. All other species of snub-nosed monkeys, found in parts of China and Vietnam, are considered to be endangered.

Mark Rose, Chief Executive of Fauna & Flora International said, “We are committed to taking immediate conservation action to safeguard the survival of this important new species together with our partners and local communities in Myanmar.”

While no video footage of the new species exists yet, the IUCN a few years ago released the following video showing another species of snub-nosed monkey. The monkeys aren’t sneezing, but the video will give you a better idea of what their distinctive noses and lips look like.

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