- Fewer than 200 Dryas monkeys are believed to survive in the wild today.
- Videotaping the secretive monkeys was not easy.
- Researchers set up cameras on the ground, in the understory and even climbed very tall trees to attach cameras in the canopy.
- The team hopes that their camera trapping exercise will help them document where new Dryas populations live.
Using remote cameras attached high up in trees and in the understory, researchers have captured the first ever video footage of a new population of the rare Dryas monkeys (Cercopithecus dryas) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Central Africa. The new population was found near the Lomami National Park in the DRC.
For a long time, the elusive Dryas monkey was believed to exist only in the Wamba-Kokolopori forest in central DRC, according to Terese Hart, director of the Lukuru Foundation TL2 Project.
But members of the TL2 Project discovered a Dryas-like monkey in 2014, killed by a hunter and hung for sale near one of their field camps. The team later confirmed that it was indeed the Dryas monkey, locally known as Inoko.
To find out if the monkey was common in the Lomami landscape, the team collaborated with researchers from the Florida Atlantic University (FAU).
“The Dryas monkey is extremely cryptic and we had to think of a creative strategy to observe them in the wild,” Kate Detwiler, a primatologist and an assistant professor of anthropology at FAU who helped discover a new species of monkey, the Lesula, in Lomami National Park in 2012, said in a statement. “Dryas monkeys are drawn to dense thickets and flooded areas. When threatened, they quickly disappear into a tangle of vines and foliage, mastering the art of hiding.”
(Video Credit: Daniel Alempijevic, FAU Primate Evolution and Conservation Lab)
Videotaping the secretive monkeys was not easy. Daniel Alempijevic, currently a master’s student at FAU, set up several camera traps in the TL2 landscape at three levels: on the ground, in the understory and high up in the canopy, for which he had to climb very tall rainforest trees. The three levels would help them understand where the Dryas monkeys prefer to reside.
Fortunately, the cameras in the understory managed to video several Dryas monkeys. The cameras also captured species like the endangered bonobo (Pan paniscus), African palm civet (Nandinia binotata), and the potto (Perodicticus potto).
“The Congo Basin rainforest is the second-largest rainforest in the world, and contains some of the least known species on the planet, many of which are threatened from hunting pressure and deforestation,” said Detwiler. “Our goal is to document where new Dryas populations live and develop effective methods to monitor population size over time to ensure their protection. Understanding where they reside is important, because the animals living inside the Lomami National Park are protected, as it is illegal to hunt.”
Fewer than 200 Dryas monkeys are believed to survive in the wild today. While the camera trap footage can help in determining conservation efforts needed to protect the species, Detwiler’s team is also investigating whether this species is a close relative of the Vervet monkey by analyzing its genetic data.
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