New Primate Species Discovered In Myanmar Already Facing Extinction
Scientists have discovered a new species of primates in Myanmar, called the Popa langur. But the species is already threatened with extinction.
Named after an extinct volcano, Mount Popa, home to a significant chunk of the species’ population, the Popa langur is a lithe tree-dwelling monkey with greyish-coloured fur and spectacle-like eye patches. They were first captured on camera in 2018. Currently, there are only about 200-250 individuals of the species remaining in the world.
Interestingly, the first evidence of the new species was found in the backrooms of London’s Natural History Museum (NIH), and not in the wild. Due to its unique tail length, fur color, and skull shape, scientist had suspected that it was a new species. Their suspicion was confirmed following genetic analyses of the museum’s specimens, collected over a century ago, which were then matched to samples of the species’ bones collected during relatively recent field surveys in Myanmar by the Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and the German Primate Center.
A study detailing the findings leading to the discovery of the species, scientifically known as Trachypithecus popa, was published this week in Zoological Research.
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The animal is believed to have been widespread across central Myanmar in the past, but is presently confined to four isolated populations — the largest of which comprises 100 individuals, dwelling on Mount Popa. Despite the forested area in that region being under protection, agricultural encroachment, environmental degradation, and livestock grazing continue to threaten its wildlife. “Although Mount Popa is a national park, meaning the species that occur there are legally protected, hunting and deforestation for the timber industry and fuelwood still occur,” Roberto Portela Miguez, a senior curator at NIH, said in a media statement.
In order to save the species from extinction, conservationists are planning to “engage with local communities as well as private sector stakeholders to safeguard its future,” as Frank Momberg from FFI told BBC. They are also planning to conduct additional field surveys in the region, and implement measures to ensure better management of the protected areas. In the meantime, organizations like the IUCN and the CITES are also being urged to add the Popa langur to their lists of threatened species.
“Sadly this is a bittersweet discovery due to the limited number of individuals left in the wild and fragmented populations… The hope is that by giving this species the scientific status and notoriety it merits, there will be even more concerted efforts in protecting this area and the few other remaining populations,” Miguez noted, adding: “We have to be hopeful.”