Joint measures have substantially improved the chances of saving the critically endangered primates from extinction.
In 2010, a Burmese scientist identified an as yet unknown species of snub-nosed monkey in Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. The then only known specimen of the newly identified species did not fare that well, though. It had been caught by local hunters in the mountainous state of Kachin and was promptly eaten.
Dubbed “snubby” by scientists thanks to its lack of a proper proboscis, the species (Rhinopithecus strykeri) was no sooner discovered than it was declared critically endangered. In 2011, other specimens of the species were discovered in the forests of Yunnan province in neighboring China, where the primates likewise faced the threats of poaching and habitat loss.
The animals take after certain comic book characters with their front-facing nostrils and fleshy lips. Because of their exposed nasal cavity, the monkeys tend to sneeze in pouring rain, which can reveal them to human hunters on the prowl. Local tribespeople call the primate “the monkey with an upturned face.”
With only around 300 individuals left in the wild, any further loss of the primate will push it closer to the edge of extinction. “Hunting pressure is likely to increase considerably in the next few years as new dam construction and logging roads invade the distribution area of this newly discovered snub-nosed monkey,” says the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Encouragingly, however, conservationists in Myanmar and China have been pulling out all the stops to save the critically endangered moneys from any further harm at the hands of people.
By raising awareness among local communities of the importance to spare the monkeys, they have managed to convince local hunters to avoid targeting the primates. Simultaneously, the governments of the two neighboring nations are also in the process of setting up new protected areas on both sides of the border so as to save the biodiversity of the forests that straddle it.
“Protected area designation and trans-boundary collaboration, combined with the active participation of local communities in both biodiversity conservation and sustainable economic development, have substantially improved the chances for the snubby to be saved from the brink of extinction,” stressesFrank Momberg, director of the nonprofit Fauna & Flora International’s Myanmar program.