New population of Myanmar snub-nosed monkey discovered in China

Jeremy Hance
May 16, 2012

Scientists in China have located a second population of the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri), a primate that was only first discovered two years ago in Myanmar, also known as Burma. Long Yongcheng, scientist with the Nature Conservancy in China, told the China Daily that his team have discovered 50-100 Myanmar snub-nosed monkeys in the Gaoligong Mountain Natural Reserve near the border with Myanmar in Yunnan Province.

Chinese scientists were able to photograph and even videotape the species. But it was the monkey's scat and fur that proved it was the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey: DNA tests showed a 98.2 percent match with the species in Myanmar.

The Myanmar snub-nosed monkey first came to the world's attention in 2010 when a researcher announced its discovery based on a carcass killed by a local hunter Myanmar. Locals referred to the monkey as mey nwoah, or 'monkey with an upturned face', and noted that hunters could find them easily in the rain, because their noses caused them to sneeze from raindrops collecting in them.

At the beginning of this year, researchers released the first photos of the new primate—blurry shots taken by camera trap, but they documented the presence of the animals and some even showed mothers with babies and family groups. Dwelling deep in Myanmar's temperate forests, to date, the population in Myanmar has never been captured on handheld camera or even seen by a scientist.

The discovery of a second, albeit small, population in China is good news for the species, as the population in Myanmar is imperiled by hunting and trapping, activities which could worsen as logging makes inroads on their habitat. There are five species of snub-nosed monkey, all of them threatened, except the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey which hasn't been evaluated, but may fit the criteria for Critically Endangered.

Myanmar has one of world's the highest deforestation rates, which is at least partly driven by China's rising demand for raw logs and other commodities. Between 1990 and 2010, Myanmar lost 19 percent of its forest cover, or around 7,445,000 hectares, an area larger than Ireland. Experts warn that without strong regulations the pace of logging could even worsen as Myanmar opens up to international markets after years of military dictatorship.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (May 16, 2012).

New population of Myanmar snub-nosed monkey discovered in China.