Friday, May 14, 2010

Mini monkey roped into conservation action

Born on 19 April 2010 and now nearly a month old, a new baby L’Hoest’s monkey has gone on show at Edinburgh Zoo.

Part of European Endangered Programme (EEP) designed to increase captive populations of L’Hoest’s monkey due to its vulnerable conservation status, there are just 32 individuals held at just seven zoo sites across Europe with five monkeys at Edinburgh Zoo. In the wild, populations are expected to continue to decline by 30% in the next three decades and conservation authorities believe this species faces a high risk of extinction.

As Darren McGarry, Animal Collection Manager at Edinburgh Zoo said, the sex of the infant is still a mystery:

“For the first few months, mother and infant are inseparable and the infant remains firmly attached. It can therefore be very difficult to get a close enough glimpse to confidently confirm the sex and be able to give the youngster a name.

The infant is the second born to this female and she has been a brilliant mother so far, so we are confident this new arrival will thrive in the family group and hopefully, when it is old enough, start its own family.”

With distinctive short, brown coats with a reddish-brown colour across the back and dark brown or black underparts, they have a white chin ruff, or “beard,” and white patches under their eyes. During the 60s and 70s, L’Hoest’s monkeys were very popular additions to zoo collections but after this period, they fell out of favour and it became rare to own a family group of this species.

Today, the diversity of the bloodlines in captive collections remains a concern and genetic diversity in captive collections could prove beneficial if the species is reintroduced to the wild following extinction. After five years of negotiation and in the coming months the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the charity that owns Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park, will be bringing seven more individuals of this species into their collections from America to help improve the bloodline and aid future breeding.

Named after the Director of Antwerp Zoo, L’Hoest’s monkeys (Cercopithecus lhoesti) can be found in small areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. One of the main threats to this species is deforestation of their habitat. This is mainly due to expansion of farming. L’Hoest’s monkeys are also hunted for bushmeat, and are frequently snared or shot by hunters. Because the L’Hoest’s monkeys’ range is an area of warfare and intense human conflict, these threats are made even worse.

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