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New monkey in Africa

Full-body view of Lophocebus kipunji Ehardt et al. 2005 sp. nov. Note broad, upright crest on head, non-contrasting eyelids, long fur, coat color, lighter area on chest and distal tail, as well as characteristic tail carriage. Artist's reconstruction from research video taken in Ndundulu Forest of Udzungwa Mountains, and in the Southern Highlands, Tanzania, by C. L. Ehardt. Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

Scientists have discovered a new kind of monkey living in the rainforests of the African country of Tanzania, called the "highland mangabey."

Highland mangabeys have mostly brown fur on their bodies and light-colored or white fur on their tails. They have black faces, hands and feet. Some of the monkeys have lighter fur on their bellies. Scientists have not been able to measure a highland mangabey yet, but adult males are estimated to be about 90 centimeters or three feet from head to foot. Their tails are about the same length.

The scientists gave the highland mangabeys the scientific name Lophocebus kipunji. The second part of this name, kipunji, pronounced "kip-oon-jee" is the name people from the Southern Highlands gave to these shy monkeys many years ago.

Two groups of scientists each documented the highland mangabeys in different mountain ranges of Tanzania at almost the same time. Their descriptions of the monkeys appear in the 20 May, 2005 issue of the journal Science.

Science author Trevor Jones from Udzungwa Mountains National Park in Mang'ula, Tanzania was part of the research team that located highland mangabeys living in Tanzania's Udzungwa Mountains. The monkeys live in a beautiful rainforest that is almost completely untouched by humans.

While searching for and studying the monkeys, the scientists followed ancient paths elephants cut through the forest.

The monkeys spend most of their days and nights in treetops that make up the rainforest's roof or "canopy." The monkeys mostly eat fruit though they probably also eat leaves, flower buds and, occasionally, small animals.

The African crowned eagle a predator that soars above the rainforest canopy -- hunts these monkeys. Leopards and pythons probably also catch and eat these monkeys.

The scientists observed the monkeys spending time together in groups of 15 or 20. When they get scared, they split up into smaller groups and hide in the densest and most protected parts of the treetops.

Jones gave three reasons for why the monkeys were just now discovered by scientists. First, they are shy creatures. Second, they live in remote areas. Third, there are not very many highland mangabeys probably less than 1000 in the entire world.

Due to their low number, the highland mangabey will probably be classified as a critically endangered species.

The monkeys that live in the rainforests of the Udzungwa Mountains do not seem to be at risk from forest destruction.

However, the highland mangabeys living in the Southern Highlands are at serious risk of extinction because their forest homes are being destroyed, Jones explained.

The scientists hope that discovery of this new species will help protect these forests and all the wildlife, big and small, that inhabit the forests.