John received a photo from Opala. “What is this Monkey?!”
The monkey was a captive , our teams found it in 2007 when traveling south to do inventories in the vast roadless forests we call the TL2, the land between the rivers, Tshuapa, Lomami and Lualaba.
John visited the monkey himself. “Lesula” is the name the Mbole people give it. John sent pictures to experts around the world and put the teams on high alert. They are always on high alert as there are a number of strange animal distributions and unrecognized forms in the TL2 forests.
They collected photos of an eagle kill and hunters’ kills.
This Lesula was caught in a ground snare, and sold to a trader. ICCN confiscated it near our base camp, Bafundo. Here, at Bafundo, it seemed very thankful for a drink of water. We returned the Lesula to its range and released it. More photos below.
John advised our teams to get a snip of the Lesula’s skin; “if possible, take the whole carcass.” They took waypoints of where the monkey was seen in the forests…often streaking along the ground a short distance away.
We sought help from New York University geneticists and from morphologists at the Peabody Museum of Yale University. An audiologist joined the effort, using Lesula “booms” recorded at dawn. Our conclusion: This is a new species of monkey. Its home is the TL2 Landscape, west of the Lomami River. It is separated by two major rivers from its closest relative, the Owl-Faced Monkey.
The Lesula (red hatching) is only found west of the Lomami River; its sister species the owl-faced monkey is only found east of the Lualaba (Congo) River.
We, and our colleagues, have just published the find in the journal PLoS ONE: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0044271
It’s new name : Cercopithecus lomamiensis. We still call it Lesula and so do the Mbole.
We thank Congo’s Conservation Agency, Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), for facilitating our work and carrying forward the plan of creating the Lomami National Park that will protect Lesula, Okapi, Bonobo, Elephant and many other living treasures of the Congo that live between the rivers.
Below, in pictures, our first release of a hunter-captured Lesula.
Having confiscated the Lesula at Bafundo, on the east bank of the Lomami, we carried it back through the forest to the tiny village of Kakungu on the Lomami River. It climbed aboard the dugout and headed downstream to our base camp at Obenge on the west bank of the Lomami.