Saturday, July 11, 2009

New Species of Tamarin Monkey Discovered

Artist Stephen Nash's rendering of the newly described monkey Saguinus fuscicollis mura.

A new species of monkey has been discovered in the Brazilian Amazon, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The monkey has been named ‘Mura’s saddleback tamarin’ (Saguinus fuscicollis mura) after the Mura Indians, the indigenous people who live in the Purus and Madeira river basins where the monkey lives. As the name indicates, the monkey is a newly-discovered type of saddleback tamarin.

The monkey is mostly gray and dark brown in color, with a distinctly mottled "saddle", and weighs 213 grams (less than three-quarters of a pound). It is 240 millimeters (9 inches) tall with a 320 millimeter (12.6 inch) tail.

"This newly described monkey shows that even today there are still major wildlife discoveries to be made," said Fabio Röhe of the Wildlife Conservation Society, primary author of a paper that describes the new species. "This discovery should serve as a wake-up call that there is still so much to learn from the world's wild places, yet humans continue to threaten these areas with destruction."

Röhe and his colleagues warn that this monkey is threatened by several planned development projects in the region, particularly the paving of Manaus-Porto Velho (BR 319) highway. This highway will facilitate the expansion of unofficial road networks promoting logging and deforestation for cattle pastures. Also threatening the region’s forests are a proposed gas pipeline and two hydroelectric dams (Santo Antônio and Jirau on the Rio Madeira waterway in the state of Rondônia).

"The increase in human populations resulting from the developmental projects and improved infrastructure will result in widespread loss, degradation, and fragmentation of the forests... threatening not only these tamarinds but also the entire fauna and flora of the region," the authors write. "Predictions of deforestation in the Amazon over the next decades indicate that Saguinus fuscicollis mura, even with the most optimistic scenarios, will be confined to small forest patches and close to extinction within the next 50 years."

"We hope that the discovery will draw attention to conservation in this very fragile; but, biodiverse region," said Dr. Avecita Chicchon, Director of WCS's Latin America Programs.

In recent years, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) researchers have discovered the Arunachal macaque in India (late 2004); the Madidi monkey in Bolivia (2005); and, the Kipunji in Tanzania (2005).

Saddleback tamarins are found in the upper Amazon, west of the Madeira and Mamoré–Guaporé rivers to the Andes. There are currently 13 known species and subspecies in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

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