Just three years after it was discovered, a new species of monkey is threatened with extinction according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which recently published the first-ever census of the endangered primate. Known as the “kipunji,” the large, forest-dwelling primate hovers at 1,117 individuals, according to a study released in the July issue of the journal Oryx.
The population estimate was the result of more than 2,800 hours of field work by WCS scientists in the Southern Highlands and Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania where the kipunji was discovered. The team found that the monkey’s range is restricted to just 6.82 square miles (17.69 square kilometers) of forest in two isolated regions.
The authors also discovered that much of the monkey’s remaining habitat is severely degraded by illegal logging and land conversion. In addition, the monkey itself is the target of poachers. Because of these combined threats, WCS proposes that the kipunji should be classified by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as “critically endangered” – which means it is threatened with extinction in the wild if immediate conservation action is not taken.
“The kipunji is hanging on by the thinnest of threads,” said Dr. Tim Davenport, Tanzania Country Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “We must do all we can to safeguard this extremely rare and little understood species while there is still time.”
Along with the IUCN designation, WCS is investing in the protection and restoration of the kipunji’s remaining habitat and local conservation education of local people to help safeguard remaining populations.
The kipunji first made headlines in 2005 when a team of scientists led by WCS announced its discovery. Then in 2006, the monkey made news again when DNA analysis revealed that the species represented an entire new genus of primate—the first since 1923.