Scientists discover new genus of African monkey

A new species of monkey identified in Tanzania's highlands last year is an even more remarkable find than thought -- it is a new genus of animal, scientists said on Thursday.

The new monkey, at first called the highland mangabey but now known as kipunji, is more closely related to baboons than to mangabey monkeys, but in fact deserves its own genus and species classification, the researchers reported in the journal Science.

So they have re-named it Rungwecebus kipunji, and it is the first new genus of a living primate from Africa to be identified in 83 years.

"This is exciting news because it shows that the age of discovery is by no means over," said William Stanley, mammal collection manager at The Field Museum in Chicago, which has a dead specimen of the grayish-brown monkey, informs Reuters.

According to BBC News, the international team, writing in the journal Science Express, warns that the animal is already under threat from logging and hunting.

The monkey is found in two high-altitude remote locations in Tanzania: the Rungwe-Livingstone forest in the Southern Highlands and the Ndundulu Forest in the Udzungwa Mountains.

Known locally as Kipunji, it stands at about 90cm (3ft) tall, is grey-brown in colour with off-white fur on its stomach and on the tip of its long curly tail, and has a crest of long hair on the top of its head. Adults have a distinctive call, described as a "honk-bark".

However, researchers believe less than a thousand remain. Loggers and charcoal merchants are destroying the habitat of the critically endangered furry brown primate, away from the gaze of conservation officials.

Tanzania's Ndundulu forest, were the monkey lives, was also the site of two new bird species discoveries since 1981, and many hope that the presence of a new animal species will encourage the East African state to declare the ecologically diverse forest a protected site.

Hunted mostly by crowned eagles and leopards, the kipunji is also at danger from farmers living on the nearby slopes of Mount Rungwe.

The kipunji occasionally descends from its habitual treetop habitat at an altitude of some 1,750 metres above sea level to steal maize, beans and sweet potatoes, informs Monsters and Critics.

O.Ch.