A Marvelous Monkey

Scientists uncover a new species of monkey in Central Africa

Sep 17, 2012 | By Cameron Keady with AP reporting
HART JA, DETWILER KM, GILBERT CC/PA/REUTERS

The animal kingdom has a new member. On September 12, researchers unveiled to the world a newly discovered species of monkey. The primate is called the lesula, short for its Latin name, Cercopithecus lomamiensis. The lesula is only the second monkey species discovered in 28 years.

Meet the Lesula

Scientists first saw the lesula in June 2007 in the town of Opala in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Democratic Republic of Congo, often called the DRC, is located in Central Africa. The lesula lives in the lowland rainforests of central DRC. The monkey found in Opala was the pet of a local family. Researchers say the species was already well known to hunters. The found additional lesulas in the wild.

The lesula is native to Central Africa
HART JA, DETWILER KM, GILBERT CC/PA/REUTERS
The lesula is native to Central Africa.

The lesula has been compared to another species of monkey called Cercopithecus hamlyni, better known as the owl-faced monkey. This animal earns its name for having a long, flat nose and a face that that looks like that of an owl. The lesula and the owl-faced monkey are similar in size and both have a stripe on their nose. These new findings on the lesula prove that the two monkeys are close relatives, but different species. Scientists say the lesula usually weighs about 12 pounds and measures about 20 inches. It has a mane of long blond hair and a cream-colored stripe running down its nose. The lesula eats a vegetarian diet. Its habitat extends nearly 11,000 square miles across the DRC’s eastern central basin.

Saving Forests, Saving Species

Robert Kityo is a zoology professor at Uganda’s Makerere University. He says that the lesula discovery is proof that the eastern central basin is filled with species yet to be discovered. This new find also creates awareness about the importance of preserving, or protecting, African rainforests. Many forests are threatened by illegal logging and hunting. Preserving these rainforests allows new species like the lesula to continue to grow and change.