A New Species of Monkey from the Center of Congo

John received a photo from Opala. “What is this Monkey?!”

georgette with captive lesula
Georgette with her pet Lesula in Opala. It was still a juvenile when we first saw it.

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.

Portrait of Lesula
A portrait of Lesula with its most amazing eyes.

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.

Danny, a bushmeat buyer, with baby lesulas in Obenge
Danny, a bushmeat buyer, has two baby Lesula, brought to him with their dead mothers’ bodies. Picture taken in Obenge along the Lomami River.

They collected photos of an eagle kill and hunters’ kills.

Lesula- killed by a Crowned Eagle
A Lesula killed by a Crowned Eagle.

Taken from a hunter who caught it in a ground trap
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.

Camera trap captures Lesula
Caught by camera trap, a lesula passes along a stream edge on the Losekola study area.

a puzzled look at the camera trap
A camera trap takes black and white photos in the deeper forest shade, where it caught the momentary upward gaze of a Lesula on the ground.

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.

Map of Lesula distribution and its sister species
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.

Kimio Honda's rendition of Lesula
Our friend and colleague, Kimio, painted this magnificent true-to-life water color of a male Lesula. Copyright with Kimio Honda.

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.

Heading down river at the bow of a TL2 dugout
In the bow, second-mate Lesula keeps watch.

The lesula was quickly at ease.
Arrived in Obenge, our Lesula made itself quickly at home.

Intent on peeling its Marantaceae stem.
The abundant Marantaceae around Obenge became the primary appetizer and main course.

It approved of the abundant food.
When we untied it after a few days, our Lesula showed no hesitancy to head off in search of its own Marantaceae selected on its own set of criteria. Soon it had no need to visit us at all.



  1. Posted 2012-09-12 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful! Congratulations on the discovery and publication! May the Lesula lineage prosper in its protected forest home.

  2. Chris Everett
    Posted 2012-09-13 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    How exciting to discover a new and most attractive monkey. Congratulations but I would have thought it might have been called … hartiensis in recognition of all the work that you both have done and the dangers too!
    May I propose it for the NEXT species you discover?

  3. J.P. d'Huart
    Posted 2012-09-13 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Sincères félicitations à toute votre équipe pour cette très importante – et encourageante – découverte. Il n’y a aucun doute que la poursuite des explorations dans le TL2 réserve encore de bonnes surprises. Keep it up!

  4. nate
    Posted 2012-09-13 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    How was this created. Did a human reproduce with an orangutan??

  5. Posted 2012-09-14 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    thank you for inspiring and ground-breaking work! such an amazing face on these little guys… we’re not so different, are we?

  6. Robert
    Posted 2012-09-14 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Brings a rush of gratitude to Nature and the Almighty for such a beautiful creature. May it thrive and continue to delight.

  7. Grace Thurkettle
    Posted 2012-09-14 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your great work. What a wounderful discovery! It makes one wonder, what other creatures are out there waiting to be discovered?

  8. Posted 2012-09-14 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Amazing discovery! Sounds like Michael Crichton’s dream coming true!

  9. Beth Yardumian
    Posted 2012-09-14 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    This is so exciting! Congratulations, and thank you for your contribution to the zoological database and for this blog. I dont have access to a lot of academic journals, but really want to know more than the blurb major media outlets provide.

    They really are quite striking to me in their familiarity. I look forward to further information on them – do they live in groups, what size, what are their behaviors, etc.

  10. William Richardson
    Posted 2012-09-14 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    The face of the new found monkey resembles a human in transition into a human being of our ancesters!

  11. leo lane
    Posted 2012-09-14 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m starting to believe in Darwin – that monkey looks just like my Uncle Dan, but probably smarter.

  12. BrianW
    Posted 2012-09-14 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Is noone else aware of the hubris of western science in claiming a “new discovery” when locals have been keeping them for pets and have given it a common name?
    Just because the locals can’t give it a fancy latin designation doesn’t make their contribution any less real or valuable. Respectful recognition of indigenous contributions to science and biodiversity is long overdue by the scientific community.

  13. Jo Krieg
    Posted 2012-09-15 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on this fantastic discovery! I cannot imagine anything more uplifting or important than finding a new species on our over-developed planet. I admire all your hard work and dedication exploring this area which I got very close to in 1984.(Encounter Overland camping trip which went through Kisangani and Goma).Good luck in all you do in the future. I will be watching your progress with huge interest and excitement.

  14. Adam Wardrope
    Posted 2012-09-15 at 4:47 am | Permalink

    How Fantastic,

    Your work makes my every day life more richer .

    Thank you

  15. Trish Ditz
    Posted 2012-09-15 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    The color reminds me of the golden monkeys, but the face is really incredible. Congratulations

  16. Posted 2012-09-15 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Terese! Take over the new wikipedia page for lesula!


  17. Beth Kaplin
    Posted 2012-09-17 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    Therese & John, this is so fantastic and awesome – what a disovery. I just find it so exciting. I heard the boom call on an NPR story where John was interviewed. There is something about these secretive, more terrestrial monkeys, like C. hamlyni… and C. lhoesti. Thank you for the pics and postings on this. So very inspiring.

  18. Rupert Mcdoogle
    Posted 2012-09-18 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    They look so very very tasty.

  19. Leonardo Valdes
    Posted 2012-09-30 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Lesula! is similar for de white human

  20. Leo Mastromatteo
    Posted 2012-10-19 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Congradulations, keep up the great work. Boy, do I miss the place. Wish I were there again. You people are so dedacated. My thoughts are with you.
    Take care,

  21. Vicki
    Posted 2015-12-30 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Looking at the lesula, I reflect that this is people…looking back at me. Consciousness flows equally to all beings…

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] Here’s the blog post from the Harts’ website giving first-hand info on the discovery. This entry was posted in Uncategorized by C. […]

  2. […] are lots more photos of the Lesula on Terese Hart's website, where she is also raising funds for the conservation project. « Notes and Talking Points […]

  3. By SoT 73: Monkeys on Crack on 2012-09-23 at 7:02 am

    […] Boiling water without bubbles – that’s just our cup of tea Newly discovered Cercopithecus lomamiensis, or Lesula. Image: John Hart. […]

  4. […] in September, the discovery of a new monkey – the Lesula (Cercopithecus lomamiensis) – was announced in PLoS ONE. […]

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