The first new species of monkey found in Africa in the last 28 years was reported by researchers from the United States and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the open access peer reviewed journal Public Library of Science on September 12, 2012.
Locally known as the lesula, the first example of this species was a young captive animal seen in 2007 in a school director's compound in the town of Opala in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This specimen hinted at being a new species due to its unique coloration and facial characteristics but insufficient evidence was collected to confirm this specimen as a new species.
The researchers observed seven sperate wild lesula that had been captured by local people around the upper Lomami River Basin to the Congo.
Genetic and epigentic analysis of the captive monkeys confirmed that this was a new species named Cercopithecus lomamiensis. A distinctive vocalization pattern is also unique to the new species. Examination of the facial bone structure of some dead lesula confirmed the animal’s uniqueness as a new species.
The researchers investigated the 6500 square mile habitat of lesula and determined the population is small but thriving at present. The scientists express some concern for the species survival as the region is becoming more populated by people who hunt monkeys for food.
The scientists are careful to state that no wild specimens were hunted or captured in the three years that were involved in this discovery.
John A. Hart 1,2 , Kate M. Detwiler 3 *, Christopher C. Gilbert 4,5 , Andrew S. Burrell 6 , James L. Fuller 5,7 , Maurice Emetshu 1 , Terese B. Hart 1,2 , Ashley Vosper 8 , Eric J. Sargis 2,9 , Anthony J. Tosi 6
1 Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, Kinshasa, Gombe, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2 Division of Vertebrate Zoology, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America, 3 Department of Anthropology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, United States of America, 4 Department of Anthropology, Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York, New York, United States of America, 5New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, New York, New York, United States of America, 6 Center for the Study of Human Origins, Department of Anthropology, New York University, New York, New York, United States of America, 7 Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, New York, United States of America, 8 Wildlife Conservation Society Zanaga Project, Wildlife Conservation Society Congo, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, 9Department of Anthropology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America
Citation: Hart JA, Detwiler KM, Gilbert CC, Burrell AS, Fuller JL, et al. (2012) Lesula: A New Species of Cercopithecus Monkey Endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Implications for Conservation of Congo's Central Basin. PLOS ONE 7(9): e44271. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044271