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Racing to save a newly discovered monkey from extinction


When the Tanzanian monkey called the kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji) was discovered just three years ago, it made headlines as the first new primate genus found in nature in more than 80 years. (A genus is one level above a species on the taxonomic scale.)

But now, this unique animal faces an uncertain future, as the two remote forests housing the 1,117 living kipunji monkeys face rapid destruction from illegal logging and habitat destruction. The two populations of kipunji live in a total habitat less than seven square miles in size.

Writing in the July issue of the journal Oryx, scientists for the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Environmental Sciences Research Centre at Anglia Ruskin University say that one of the two kipunji populations "may not be viable" (it boasts just 75 individuals) and the other is "highly fragmented" and "degraded." As for the species/genus itself, they conclude:

"We believe the kipunji faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild and recommend the species and genus be categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List."

The scientists conducted more than 200 counts over the course of 2,864 hours to complete their study.