Researchers have discovered a new monkey species in the forests of Tibet.
The world’s newest monkey, the white-cheeked macaque (Macaca leucogenys), has been discovered in southeastern Tibet. The forests it calls home with many other diverse species has not been studied very much due to the political turmoil which plagues the region. It’s distinguishing features are its rounded glans penis and dark, hairy scrotum, while other species have spear-shaped glans penis and white scrotum. OK, it also has some thick, long hair around its neck, distinguishing it even more.
In the Tibetan state of Modog where it was found, there are grasslands, alpine meadows, tropical and evergreen forests. Within this wide range of habitats, the white-cheeked macaque forages along with a great diversity of species. “The forest in Modog is like a nature library, and we know very little about it,” said Chao Zhao, from China’s Dali University’s Institute of Eastern-Himalaya Biodiversity Research and part of the study. “Discovery of the new macaque species suggests that there may be some species that still remain undiscovered in this area.”
Camera traps in four gorges were set up and captured several hundred photos of macaques. The photos were analyzed and compared to photos of known species. “Our photos clearly showed some morphological differences between the new species and other known species,” said Peng-Fei Fan, also from Dali University.
While this has brought some excitement to researchers and monkey enthusiasts alike, there is some skepticism which awaits DNA testing to prove that this is indeed, a different species of macaque. Despite the tests, these macaques are already threatened from local tribes’ hunters and construction plans for the area.
“Construction of hydropower stations would result in destroying and flooding extensive areas of forest along the rivers, the potential habitat for white cheeked macaques,” the researchers wrote. “The immigration of a large number of people into the area to construct the hydropower stations also will result in an increase in the bushmeat trade, deforestation, new roads, and the construction of housing for workers, all of which will have a negative impact on white-cheeked macaque conservation.”