‘Extinct’ Monkey Rediscovered in Borneo

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, January 24, 2012 (ENS) – Miller’s grizzled langur, a species of monkey that was believed to be extinct or on the verge of extinction has been found in Borneo by an international team of scientists.

Findings of the team of Canadian, U.S. and Indonesian scientists, published in the “American Journal of Primatology,” confirm the continued existence of this monkey. Photos captured by their camera trap show that it lives in an area where it was not known to exist.

Miller’s grizzled langur, Presbytis hosei ssp. canicrus, once was found across Borneo, Sumatra, Java and the Thai-Malay Peninsula.

Miller’s grizzled langur in Borneo’s Wehea Forest (Photo by Eric Fell)

In 2008, the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species classified this subspecies of langur as Endangered in light of a continuing decline of the population inferred from extensive habitat loss, fragmentation and hunting. Habitat loss has been at least nearly 50 percent in the past 20 years. Where the subspecies remains it is heavily hunted.

The geographical boundaries of this subspecies are unknown, says the IUCN Red List, which suggests it should be reassessed once this becomes clearer, since determining its extent could result in either a Critically Endangered or a Vulnerable assessment in the future.

In Borneo, this langur is found only in a small northeastern corner of the country. Its habitat has been degraded by fires, human encroachment and conversion of land for agriculture and mining.

The team’s expedition took to them to Wehea Forest in East Kalimantan, Borneo, a large 38,000 hectare (146 square mile) area of mostly undisturbed rainforest. Wehea contains at least nine known species of non-human primate, including the Bornean orangutan and gibbon.

Team member Brent Loken of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada said, “Discovery of P.h. canicrus was a surprise since Wehea Forest lies outside of this monkey’s known range. Future research will focus on estimating the population density for P.h. canicrus in Wehea and the surrounding forest.”

“Concern that the species may have gone extinct was first raised in 2004, and a search for the monkey during another expedition in 2008 supported the assertion that the situation was dire,” Loken said.

By conducting observations at mineral licks where animals congregate and setting up camera traps in several locations, the expedition confirmed that Miller’s grizzled langur continues to survive in areas west of its previously recorded geographic range.

The photos provide the first solid evidence demonstrating that its geographic range extends further than previously thought.

“It was a challenge to confirm our finding as there are so few pictures of this monkey available for study,” said Loken. “The only description of Miller’s grizzled langur came from museum specimens. Our photographs from Wehea are some of the only pictures that we have of this monkey.”

“East Kalimantan can be a challenging place to conduct research, given the remoteness of many remaining forested areas, so it isn’t surprising that so little is known about this primate,” said Dr. Stephanie Spehar, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh.

“We are very grateful to our local partners,” she said. “This discovery represents the hard work, dedication, and collaboration of western and Indonesian scientists, students, NGOs, as well as local communities and government.”

“While our finding confirms the monkey still exists in East Kalimantan, there is a good chance that it remains one of the world’s most endangered primates,” said Loken.

“I believe it is a race against time to protect many species in Borneo,” he said. “It is difficult to adopt conservation strategies to protect species when we don’t even know the extent of where they live. We need more scientists in the field working on understudied species such as Miller’s grizzled langur, clouded leopards and sun bears.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.