New Monkey Species from Congo: Cercopithecus lomamiensis

An international team of biologists has discovered a new species of monkey in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cercopithecus lomamiensis (Maurice Emetshu)

The monkey, named Cercopithecus lomamiensis and locally known as the lesula, is only the second monkey species discovered in Africa in the last 28 years.

The first specimen found was a young captive animal seen in 2007 in a school director’s compound in the town of Opala in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The young monkey bore a resemblance to the owl faced monkey, but its coloration was unlike that of any other known species.

Over the following three years, the study authors located additional lesula in the wild, determined its genetic and anatomical distinctiveness, and made initial observations of its behavior and ecology.

Left: adult male Cercopithecus lomamiensis (Maurice Emetshu). Right: juveniles of Cercopithecus lomamiensis (John Hart)

The species’ range covers about 6,500 square miles in central Congo in what was one of Congo’s last biologically unexplored forest blocks. Although its range is remote and only lightly settled at present, the monkey is threatened by local bush meat hunting.

“The challenge for conservation now in Congo is to intervene before losses become definitive,” said Dr John Hart and Dr Terese Hart, co-authors of a paper describing the new species in the journal PLoS-ONE.

“Species with small ranges like the lesula can move from vulnerable to seriously endangered over the course of just a few years,” they said.

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Bibliographic information: Hart JA et al. 2012. Lesula: A New Species of Cercopithecus Monkey Endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Implications for Conservation of Congo’s Central Basin. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44271; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044271