Imagine the delight of the scientists who were working in the jungles of Indonesia when one of their camera traps caught a photo of a large grey monkey that is so rare it was thought to be extinct.
The Associated Press reports that the Miller’s grizzled langur has been photographed in the Wehea forest, on the eastern tip of Borneo island, this past June. The team was on the island in the hopes of catching images of clouded leopards, orangutans and other fauna known to frequent an area by several mineral salt licks.
What they found was far more exciting. Groups of large grey monkeys that none of the scientists had ever seen before. Making identification even more difficult is there is virtually no photographic evidence of the species in existence. Furthering confusing the matter was the fact that the group Miller’s grizzled langur were far outside their previously recorded home range. The team had to rely on museum sketches to confirm their finding.
Burt Loken, a PhD student at Simon Fraser University in Canada, told the AP, “We were all pretty ecstatic. The fact that, wow, this monkey still lives, and also that it’s in Wehea.”
The team’s finding was just published in the American Journal of Primatology today.
So what have we previously known about the mysterious monkey? The Miller’s grizzled langur once roamed the north-eastern part of Borneo, the islands of Sumatra and Java, and even the Thai-Malay peninsula. After fires destroyed much of the monkey’s natural habitat, and human encroachment and land conversion for agriculture and mining intensified, the monkey went ‘missing,’ so to speak. This is on top of the fact that the grizzly langurs were also hunted for their meat and the poison-neutralizing bezoar ‘stones’ that can occasionally be found in their guts. The case against their continued existence was delivered what was thought to be a fatal blow in 2005—a field survey found no evidence of the species.
“For me, the discovery of this monkey is representative of so many species in Indonesia,” Loken told the AP. “There are so many animals we know so little about, and their home ranges are disappearing so quickly. It feels like a lot of these animals are going to quickly enter extinction.”
The monkeys appear in more than 4,000 images capture over a 60-day period. Loken explained that it is possible it was the same one or two families that kept returning.
The next step for the scientists will be to come back to the 90,000-acre forest and try to get an estimate on exactly how many grizzly langurs there are.