Girl’s pet monkey turns out to be new species

With its bright yellow mane, you’d think this monkey would be hard to miss. But in fact it’s a species new to science – and only the second new species of African monkey to be discovered in the last 28 years.

Known locally as the lesula, it hails from the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The first specimen was spotted tethered to a post outside a house in the town of Opala – a pet adopted by a young girl when its mother was killed by a hunter.

The young monkey looked a lot like the owl faced monkey, but its coloration was different from any other known species. It had large eyes, a pink face and a golden throat.

Over the next three years, the study authors located additional lesulas in the wild, and carried out a genetic analysis to establish that it was truly a separate species and not a viariant of the owl faced monkey.

The new species’ range covers about 6,500 square miles in central DRC, in what was one of Congo’s last biologically unexplored forest blocks. Although it lives far from any major centers of population, the researchers say the lesula is nonetheless threatened by local bush meat hunting.

“The challenge for conservation now in Congo is to intervene before losses become definitive,” say John and Terese Hart, who led the project. “Species with small ranges like the lesula can move from vulnerable to seriously endangered over the course of just a few years.”