Researchers working in Northern Myanmar captured the first photographs of the recently discovered Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, Rhinopithecus strykeri. The images were reported by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) on 10 January 2012. A joint team from Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA) and People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF), caught pictures of the monkey on camera traps placed in the high, forested mountains of Kachin state, bordering China.
Researchers working in Northern Myanmar captured the first photographs of the recently discovered Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, Rhinopithecus strykeri. The images were reported by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) on 10 January 2012.
A joint team from Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA) and People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF), caught pictures of the monkey on camera traps placed in the high, forested mountains of Kachin state, bordering China.
“The Myanmar snub-nosed monkey was described scientifically in 2010 from a dead specimen collected from a local hunter,” said Frank Momberg of FFI, who organized the initial expeditions that led to the monkey’s discovery. According to Momberg at that time no scientist had yet to see a live individual.
“These images are the first record of the animal in its natural habitat,” said Ngwe Lwin, the Burmese national who first recognized the monkey as a possible new species. “It is great to finally have photographs because they show us something about how and where it actually lives,” he added.
In his blog post Jeremy Holden, wildlife photographer and field biologist who led of the camera trapping team, describes their experience. He writes, “I first heard about this exciting new discovery when I met Frank Momberg in the Fauna & Flora International (FFI) office in Phnom Penh in 2010, before the discovery was common knowledge. In fact it was a well-kept secret at the time….”
“It seemed that the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey was another candidate for a camera trapping programme… As with all such camera trapping programmes, the first port of call is with the hunters who know the most about these animals. Although the monkey was now described by science, no scientist had laid eyes on a live one. What we knew about them – which was precious little – had come from hunters.”
Heavy snows in January and constant rain in April made expeditions to set the camera traps difficult. “We were dealing with very tough conditions in a remote and rugged area that contained perhaps fewer than 200 monkeys,” said Jeremy Holden. “We didn’t know exactly where they lived, and I didn’t hold out much hope of short term success with this work.”
But in May a small group of snub-nosed monkeys walked past one of the cameras and into history. “We were very surprised to get these pictures,” said Saw Soe Aung, a field biologist who set the cameras. “It was exciting to see that some of the females were carrying babies – a new generation of our rarest primate.”
“Of course, getting the photographs is just the beginning,” writes Holden in his Blog. “We need to find out where the monkeys are – this is how camera trapping can help. Then we need to protect those areas. It might seem that the monkeys are relatively safe in their remote mountainous domain, but this is far from the case… Together with our partners, FFI helped discover the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, now we need to help protect them.”
As with most of Asia’s rare mammals, the snub-nosed monkey is threatened by habitat loss and hunting.
The team is now working together with the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forest (MOECAF), local authorities and communities to help safeguard the future of the species. In February 2012, FFI and MOECAF will hold an international workshop in Yangon aiming to create a conservation action plan for the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey.
The Myanmar snub-nosed monkey Rhinopithecus strykeri is proving once again that the world’s remoter regions still hold surprises and need our urgent protection.
FFI protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and take account of human needs. Operating in more than 40 countries worldwide – mainly in the developing world – FFI saves species from extinction and habitats from destruction, while improving the livelihoods of local people. Founded in 1903, FFI is the world’s longest established international conservation body and a registered charity.