Inoko and the Camera Trap Thief

“There’s a new species of monkey at Bafundo” (Henri Silegowa)
“I doubt it!” (John Hart)
“Show me the photos. Where is the skin?” (still John)
“The hunter refused to give up the skin, but,” Henri explained, “There are photos, still in the camera at Bafundo.”

Inoko female_hunter kill
One of the photos on the Bafundo camera. It was a female.

The next morning John and Henri left Kindu for Bafundo camp and that same evening John agreed it was indeed something new. Our second mystery primate.

known occurence of Inoko copy
We can not yet describe it’s distribution beyond a couple of points on a map.

A few hunters gave it the name Inoko, but many local hunters did not recognize the monkey. Is that because it is so rare? or too small for bushmeat? or is this a recent range-extension, or a hybrid???

A month later we had another hunter’s kill and this time a skin.

2nd Inoko_male
The second Inoko was male.

The taxonomic plot was thickening.

But we needed more information about habitat, range and diet. The animal is secretive – very secretive. So we put up camera traps.

We sent 5 camera traps to Bafundo. Old ones and unfortunately three did not work. The two in the field did indeed catch a few animals, but no Inoko.

See bottom right hand corner.

The forest where the hunters found Inoko, was near the villages. It was beautiful forest, but hunted-out. No big mammals were left. Inoko is a diminutive monkey. Still, animals that are much smaller are often caught on cameras. So why no Inoko ? We waited.

Then one of the cameras disappeared.

If I had known, I would have been furious. But Assani, the head of camp TL2, along with Silas, JP and Serge took the information straight to the village chiefs. Within 8 km of our camp there are three villages, Likanjo, Bafundo and Bote. The chiefs responded.

Chiefs from the 3 villages
The three chiefs from villages near our Bafundo camp: Likanjo, Bafundo and Bote.

They wrote a letter and signed not as individuals but with the symbol of custom. The camera had to be returned within two days or traditional punishment would be meted out.

letter with customary "signature"
A letter with customary signature is not taken lightly locally.

There was a suspicion. A traveling salesman told Assani that a certain Bakoto, had tried to trade some sort of camera for a cloth. Was it perhaps the lost camera trap? But no proof.

The traveling salesmen
Traveling salesmen sitting in front of their wares in Likanjo.

The second morning after the chiefs’ letter was distributed, at 6AM, Assani, our camp leader, was called to the house of the chief of Bafundo. The camera had been deposited at his door during the night with, unbeknownst to the thief, recorded evidence of his identity.

Caught in the act.

The story could end here, but the chiefs were not content. They wrote a letter to Bakoto warning him that he had to present himself. He was known.

Bakoto fled. He stayed in the forest. A few days ago, when he was fishing, his hook (a large #6) flipped back and caught him between the ribs. He is at the Lokando hospital. Traditional justice was done. Bakoto will continue to feel pursued. There is no doubt. He has no choice.

Trying to increase the camera traps looking for Inoko, Guylain, our motorcycle driver-mechanic, started taking apart the dysfunctional ones.
fixing camera traps at Bafundo
Guylain with Manaka, our second driver, as assistant.

camera traps dismantled _checked with motorcycle battery

By cleaning off rust and repairing a broken wire, he managed to recover two more for the forest.


  1. cleve hicks
    Posted 2014-10-27 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    This is brilliant. A classic story of the travails of conducting research in DRC. The signature! It made things happen. And the dialogue between Henri and John is priceless. Congratulations Team Lukuru!

  2. Colin Groves
    Posted 2014-10-28 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    It is Cercopithecus dryas, or something very closely allied.
    Brilliant discovery.

  3. Boo
    Posted 2014-10-28 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Salongo monkey!! Or, as Colin says, something similar. Nice pictures in the Mammals of Africa primate volume (II); pp 306-7.

  4. Nivaldo Nogueira da
    Posted 2014-10-30 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    i think it’s Cercopithecus Dryas or Salongo Monkey too, because is very similar, that’s my opinion !

  5. Posted 2014-11-01 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    great story, so many elements typifying life and work in rural DRC. thank you.

  6. John Hart
    Posted 2014-11-02 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Great post, Mama T. Now we need more cameras in the Inoko forest. The birds in the first clip look like Latham’s Francolins.

  7. Posted 2014-11-04 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    Just re-checked the images of Cercopithecus dryas/salongo from Kuroda et al. 1985 Primates (“Further Information on the New Monkey Species, Cercopithecus salongo THYS VAN DEN AUDENAERDE, 1977.”) This certainly looks very similar to the monkey seen in Fig 1 of that paper. If anyone wants to look but can’t access the paper feel free to drop me an email and I’ll send you the PDF.

  8. Christina Bergey
    Posted 2014-11-04 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Very cool find! Quite a pretty monkey, and another sign that there’s so much to be found in the forests of DR Congo.

    The only photo I could find (outside of the paper James mentioned) of a salongo can be found here:

    (It’s from a survey of the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve by the Bonobo Conservation Initiative.)

    There’s some discussion about variation in salongo/dryas pelage due to age and sex which could be useful as well as drawings from museum specimens in:

    Colyn MA et al. 1991 “Cercopithecus dryas Schwarz 1932 and C. salongo Thys van den Audenaerde 1977 are the same species with an age-related coat pattern.”

    I’m also happy to pass it or other guenon-related reprints on to interested parties.

  9. Pungu Okito
    Posted 2015-04-21 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Dear Dr. Teresa,
    You have succeeded where people have failed. My son is working hard to protect Okapi in Ituri. We would like to correspond with you and share our experience in wild animals in DR Congo. How can we we contact you? Do you have an email or phone number for chatting.
    We thank you for your wonderful initiative and hard work.

  10. Pungu Okito
    Posted 2015-04-21 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Dear Dr. Teresa,
    You have succeeded where people have failed. My son is working hard to protect Okapi in Ituri. We would like to correspond with you and share our experience in wild animals in DR Congo.

  11. Pungu Okito
    Posted 2015-04-21 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    How can we we contact you? Do you have an email or phone number for chatting.
    We thank you for your wonderful initiative and hard work.

  12. Suehisa Kuroda
    Posted 2016-05-01 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Dear Dr. Terese Hart,

    I have just known this site in the discussions on C. dryas/salongo by Reiko Goodwin et al..

    I am surprised at photos of Bafundo monkey, because of its very identical color pattern to salongo’s. Now I’m sure that these are the same species.

    I have been fascinated to survey the tributary area, because I think the area may remain a lot of living evidences about the history of climate changes of Congo Basin. Of cause I am interested in bonobos there, too. They may have different culture from other areas, including Wamba. However, I couldn’t realize this plan before retiring from field work and an university job.

    Thus, to be frank, I envy you, and hope your success in every field in the tributary.

    Many thanks and best regards,

    Suehisa Kuroda

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