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New monkey species in Mabira - expertPublish Date: Feb 18, 2007
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By Gerald Tenywa

A new monkey species believed to be endangered, has been discovered in Mabira forest reserve in Mukono. According to a report by Prof. Colin Groves of the Australian National University, the monkey species is now one of the 19 primate species in Uganda.

He said the primate, known as the gray-cheeked mangabey (scientific name Lophocebus albigena) was being upgraded to a new class to be called Lophocebus ugandae.

Groves revealed that when he revised the research he undertook three decades ago, he discovered that the Uganda monkeys were much smaller than similar ones in other parts of the world. “It was really striking,” he said.

The species is dramatically smaller than the true lephocebus albigena and the new methods of analysis have made it more obvious, according to Groves.

Groves’ report is proposing to raise the conservation status of Uganda mangabeys to the IUCN’s list of endangered species. This means that they will be of the same priority for conservation internationally as gorillas and chimpanzees.

The Uganda species have a short skull and face compared to the ones in their previous grouping that widely occur in Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo.

The gray-cheeked mangabey can also be found in Central Africa and westward toward the Congo River and east to the shores of the Lualaba River in DRC. They occupy northern Zaire southward into northern Angola. In Uganda, they are only found in Kibale, Semliki, Itwara, Bugoma, Bujuko, Mpanga, Sango bay and Mabira forests.

When completed, the upgrade will separate the Ugandan monkeys from those in central and southern Africa, becoming the only species found exclusively in Uganda.

“This is excellent news as it will sell Ugandan forests for tourism,” said William Olupot, a researcher on primates at the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society. “It also raises the tourism potential of Mabira one or several notches,” he said.

The new species prefer to live in the middle and upper layers of the forest, where they feed on fruits. Because of this, they rarely come out of the forest to raid crops.

This species was put in a distinct genus by Groves, the world’s leading authority on primate classification, in 1978.

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