The species Cercopithecus Lomamiensis, more commonly known as the Lesula, was discovered by a team of scientists from America lead by John Hart, deep in the Lomami Forest Basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The initial discovery was made in 2007 but was only publicly confirmed, after extensive research, as an entirely new species in September of 2012.
Although the Lesula have been well known to local hunters for a long time, this is the first instance in which they have been documented scientifically. In a world where it seems as though technology is discovering the truth of our planet very quickly, it was phenomenal for the world outside of the Congo to hear of this previously unknown primate, as the discovery of a new species of mammal in science is now very rare.
A Lesula can weigh up to 5.4kg and measure up to 53cm, with the males weighing and measuring approximately twice that of the females. They live in small groups of 1-5 and their diet consists of fruits, flower buds and vegetation. They have giant blue backsides and, unusually for monkeys, spend a lot of their time in the forest under-story The male Lesula have a low frequency, booming call, which can be heard in the clip below. Although the lesula look similar to owl-faced monkeys which reside further to the east of the Congo, three years of genetic and morphological analyses have proven that they are an entirely separate species. The results of these studies suggest that the two separate species split from a common ancestor around 2 million years ago.
The Booming call of a Male Lesula
The Lesula monkey’s territory covers around 6500 square miles of lowland forest between the Lomani and Tshuapa Rivers across the eastern central basin of the Congo. The area has previously been known to be one of the least biologically explored blocks of forest in the Congo.
Professor Hart and his colleagues stated that they hoped this new discovery would bring renewed efforts to save central Africa’s pristine forests. Threats to the ecology and survival of the forest include; loggers, bush meat hunters and weak national governments not viewing conservation as a priority for their country. However the Lesula’s habitat is not quite so threatened by logging and mining projects due to its remote location, though this could always change in any forest ecosystem that is not internationally recognised as protected. This new discovery proves how little we know about the biological diversity of the Congo, and the species withheld inside. It is so important for these areas to be preserved in order for us to keep making new scientific discoveries, so we can protect them and work with the environment in order for our mutual benefit.
In order to protect this large area of ecological significance, Teresa and John Hart from Yale University work with and for the Lukuru Foundation (http://www.lukuru.org) who are working with authorities in the Congo to establish a national park in the Lomani basin.
“The challenge for conservation now in Congo is to intervene before losses become definitive… Species with small ranges like the lesula can move from vulnerable to seriously endangered over the course of just a few years… We are asking people not only to stop hunting in the area that will become a national park, but also to change their hunting behavior and to not hunt the Lesula and other endangered species in the adjoining buffer zones as well.” – John and Terese Hart.
There is a strong possibility that there are many, many more species and subspecies currently undiscovered in Africa’s jungles which are teeming with life, it is paramount that we work to preserve them.
To view the formal research paper submitted by the Harts and their team to peer reviewed scientific journal Plos One, follow the link below.
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