A new species of monkey living on an extinct volcano in Myanmar has been identified by scientists.
The Popa langur, named after it’s home on Mount Popa, is a leaf-eating primate with white spectacle-like eye patches and a shock of unruly grey hair.
The species has been around for at least a million years, according to a study published on Wednesday in the Journal of Zoological Research.
These monkeys are under threat, however, from habitat loss and hunting, and scientists have estimated that there are only 200-250 left in the wild. As a result, the new species will be classified as “critically endangered.”
“Just described, the Popa langur is already facing extinction,” said Frank Momberg, a researcher at Flora and Fauna International (FFI) in Yangon who contributed to the study.
Researchers had long suspected there might be a new species in central Myanmar, and their suspicions were confirmed when footage of the species was captured in 2018.
The langurs’ reclusive nature made it difficult for scientists to collect further evidence, however.
Intriguingly, the first solid evidence of the new species was found in London’s Natural History Museum, when scientists analysing faeces samples collected in Myanmar over a hundred years ago realised they had stumbled across something new.
New samples collected by Momberg and his team were shown to match those from the Museum, leading scientists to conclude they had identified a new species.
Over recent decades, Myanmar has received a lot of international investment, which has spurred on the growth of industry and road building. This had led to the widespread destruction of vital forest habitats of the kind where the Popa langur lives.
One piece of positive news, however, is that that largest population of the langurs was found within an already protected area.
Senior Natural History Museum Curator, Roberto Portela Miguez, who is in charge of Mammals at the Museum and was involved in describing the new species, said: “We hope that the naming of the species will help in its conservation.
“The hope is that by giving this species the scientific status and notoriety it merits, there will be even more concerted efforts in protecting the area in which they live and the few other remaining populations.
“At least whatever decisions are made in the future when it comes to things like how the parks are managed will come from a more informed point of view, as we now know of the distinctiveness of the population of langurs.”