Odd New Monkey Species Discovered, Then Eaten

10/29/2010

This week reports of a strange new monkey species that has been documented by science for the first time are creating a buzz in the wildlife world.  Without doubt, the monkey is an odd one. Named Rhinopithecus strykeri, it's one of the snub-nosed monkeys, which get their common name from their weird-looking, upturned noses.  In the case of this new species, those noses are something of a detriment to their survival.  During the rainy season these monkeys sneeze constantly as water drips into their unprotected nostrils, making it easy for local hunters to find and shoot them.

Snub Nosed Monkey In fact, the only known photo of this species shows a dead one that became dinner shortly after the photo was taken (see right).

The very fact that such a large mammal--a primate no less--has gone undiscovered by science for so long makes this an odd story, but as strange as it sounds that there can still be large animals out there that the world at large doesn't know about, it's a fact that there are still places on the planet that haven't been fully explored (particularly the oceans and remote, mountainous forests) and that new species are still being discovered every year. 

Many of these newly discovered species are critically endangered, including R. strykeri, which is believed to only exist in this one population of a few hundred individuals living in the forested Himalayas of Northern Myanmar.  It's all the more reason that we need to continue serious conservation efforts to protect species.

But at the risk of sounding ethnocentric, to me the oddest thing of all about this discovery is the thought of eating one of these things.  It just looks too closely related to us!

Photo by Ngwe Lwin via National Geographic.

IMPORTANT UPDATE!

This post has generated a lot of commentary, both here as well as on Animal Planet's Facebook page.  Unfortunately, many of the comments are uninformed, ethnocentric (see definition above) and even flat-out racist and I feel the need to directly address it. 

IF YOU WRITE A RACIST COMMENT, IT WILL BE DELETED AND MARKED AS SPAM.

I posted the following important information in the comments section and elsewhere:

Every human culture kills and eats animals. That doesn't make it right or wrong but attacking one ethnic group for eating one kind of animal is the very definition of ethnocentrism. It's also hypocritical, since Western-style industrial agriculture poses huge environmental and animal welfare issues too (in which you participate even if you're a vegetarian). But most of all, such comments are, frankly, ignorant and a completely ineffective way of solving the problem of bushmeat.

Here is some more information on the bushmeat crisis and the strategies that work to actually solve the problem (note: they don't include ethnocentric/racist snipes).



David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. His goal is to inspire others to appreciate the wonders of nature. Meet David >
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