Fauna & Flora International (FFI) was part of a team of primatologists that has discovered a new species of monkey Rhinopithecus strykeri in Northern Myanmar (formerly Burma).
Field research was led by Ngwe Lwin from the Myanmar Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA) and supported by an international team of primatologists from FFI and the People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF).
The species has been named ‘Rhinopithecus strykeri’ in honour of Jon Stryker, President and Founder of the Arcus Foundation who supported the project. However, in local dialects it is called mey nwoah, ‘monkey with an upturned face.’
The team discovered the new species, also called the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, as part of the nationwide Myanmar Primate Conservation Program in early 2010.
Hunters reported the presence of a monkey species with prominent lips and wide upturned nostrils, which did not fit the description of any primate currently known from the area. It also has a relatively long tail, approximately 140 per cent of its body size.
Frank Momberg, FFI’s Regional Programme Development Coordinator, Asia Pacific, who interviewed local hunters during the field surveys suggests that the species is limited to the Maw River area.
The distribution area is believed to be 270 km2 with an approximate population of 260-330 individuals. This means it would be globally classified as Critically Endangered by IUCN criteria for the level of threat of extinction.
As this new species of snub nosed monkey inhabits the Kachin State in northeastern Myanmar it is geographically isolated from other species by two major barriers, the Mekong and the Salween rivers, which may explain why the species has not been discovered earlier.
Sadly, this latest addition to the snub-nosed family is already threatened. Hunting pressure is rising thanks to loggers moving into previously isolated distribution area of this newly discovered monkey.
Mark Rose, Chief Executive of FFI said, “We are committed to taking immediate conservation action to safeguard the survival of this important new species together with our partners and local communities in Myanmar.”