New, azure-buttocked monkey species discovered in Congo
A surprising discovery in a remote village in the Democratic Republic of Congo adds a new species to the monkey roster.
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The lesulas live in this isolated region in groups up to five strong, and feeds on fruit and leafy plants. The males weigh up to 15 pounds (7 kilograms), about twice the size of the females. They also have some rather arresting anatomical features.Skip to next paragraph
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"They have giant blue backsides," Hart said. "Bright aquamarine buttocks and testicles. What a signal! That aquamarine blue is really a bright color in forest understory." [World's Freakiest Looking Animals]
"So in terms of monkey viewing, females can definitely find males," Detwiler said.
"We don't really know what this means because it's very uncommon for monkeys in this lineage," she added.
The only other monkey to share this feature is the lesula's closest cousin — the owl-faced monkey, a species that lives farther east. At first it was thought the monkeys were close kin, but genetic analysis suggests the two species split from a common ancestor about 2 million years ago.
Now that the new species has been formally identified, Hart said, the next task is to save it. Although the lesula is new to science, it is a well-established sight on the dinner table.
What's for dinner
There's a thriving market for bush meat, particularly in urban areas, Hart said, and the monkeys are just one of dozens of species, from snakes to elephants to apes, that are targeted.
"People have disposable income, and this is the cheapest meat," he said. "Bush meat is a go-to item because it's less expensive than chicken or beef. This is not a new problem, but it's a problem that doesn't have a solution yet."
Hart and his wife, Terese, are partnering with local people to try to set up a national park in the lesulas' territory, but it's still a work in progress. In the meantime, researchers have set up camera traps in the dense forest to try to better understand the habits of the shy animals.
Georgette, the girl whose lesula companion started it all, is now 18. "The animal was very attached to her," Hart said. But one day the monkey disappeared.
"It was suspected that somebody in town had taken it in," Hart said. "And it ended up in their cooking pot."
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