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New Monkey Discovered in the Amazon

02/04/2008 10:24:13
February 2008. A primatologist at The University of Auckland has found a new species of monkey in the north-western Amazon. Dr Jean Boubli discovered the monkey while undertaking field work in the Araca River, a tributary of the Negro River, Amazonas, Brazil.

Named Cacajao ayresi, the black uakari monkey belongs to a species unknown to science until recently. Black uakaris are specialised seed-eating primates that inhabit the remote areas of the Negro and Orinoco river basins and parts of the Pantepui mountains, in Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. This newly-discovered primate is named in after the Brazilian biologist Marcio Ayres, who pioneered field studies on uakaris.
The discovery is a result of a series of surveys conducted by Dr Boubli from 1991-2007 which focussed on the little-known and difficult-to-access Pantepui region of Brazil. Until now, only one species of black uakari was recognised, Cacajao melanocephalus, with two subspecies, C. m. melanocephalus and C. m. ouakary.

Dr Boubli, the University’s only primatologist, says this latest discovery is one of the most exciting and important of his career. He credits local guides for providing insight into the gigantic puzzle that is the biogeography of primates of the Rio Negro basin.  Dr Boubli also hopes the discovery will help encourage conservation activities in the Amazon region.

Risk to Survival
He says this new uakari species faces a number of life-threatening risks: it has a limited geographic distribution, a low population density and is vulnerable to regional epidemics, droughts, fires and global warming. The fact that Ayres’ uakari occurs in public land that is still not protected increases uncertainty to its long term survival. Throughout Northern Amazonia, uakaris are regularly eaten by local indigenous peoples.

Dr Boubli says the next step is to conduct a detailed ecological and behavioural study of Ayres’ uakari in order to design an effective management plan for this species. The findings are outlined in a publication in the International Journal of Primatology (July 2008), as well as in a recent issue of New Scientist (January 2008). Along with collaborators Drs. Maria da Silva, Manuela Amado, Francisco Pontual, Tomas Hrbez and Izeni Farias, Dr Boubli describes the new Ayres uakari and also argues that the two previously known subspecies are in fact full species, thus raising to three the number of known black uakari species.

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