Newly Discovered Primate Species Labeled Critically Endangered: With Only 260 Left

Newly+Discovered+Primate+Species+Labeled+Critically+Endangered%3A+With+Only+260+Left

Recently, scientists have made the discovery of a new primate species residing in the area around Myanmar; but they are already on the brink of extinction.

 

The endangered species has been named the “Popa langur” as a result of their residence on the sacred pilgrimage site of Mount Popa, CBS News maintained. Some distinguishing features of the Popa langur include their unique eye patches that resemble spectacles, long tails, and gray fur with a crest on top of their head.

 

Scientists believed that most of the herbivore species have disappeared from extensive habitat loss and hunting, but it was suggested that a few may still be found in Myanmar. According to RepublicWorld.com, the rare study that documented the find of the Popa langur was recorded in Zoological Research Journal on November 10, 2020, joining 512 other documented primate species around the globe.

 

“Sadly, this is a bittersweet discovery due to the limited number of individuals left in the wild and fragmented populations,” Roberto Portela Miguez, a senior curator at the Natural History Museum, stated in CNN. The Popa langur had been labeled as “critically endangered” by researchers, who estimated that there were roughly 200-260 of them left.

 

In order to verify the Popa langur as a new primate species, researchers from the Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and the German Primate Center (GMC) conducted surveys of the langurs by gathering samples and DNA from their cousins, whose scientific name is the ‘Trachypithecus’ species. As specified in RepublicWorld.com, scientists also studied specimens from several museums in addition to their data collected from surveys and samples. A lot of these were compared with sample specimens from the collection of British zoologist Guy C. Shortridge, including a Trachypithecus specimen he discovered in 1913.

 

Subtle differences between closely-related species, such as physical differences in tail length, fur color, and skull shape, have been noted and offered clues that the Popa langurs is a new undocumented species, according to CNN. From the genetic variations, scientists deduced “that the Popa langur separated from other known species around one million years ago,” BBC added.

 

Acquired from Myanmar, an over 100-year-old primate specimen preserved in the London Natural History Museum proved to be an essential component of the research. Close examination of the specimen by a team of international researchers, during which the skin and skull were meticulously inspected, confirmed the discovery of the Popa langurs. CBS News reported, “They compared its genetics to closely related species, finding unique features including larger molars and an elongated skull.” Researchers later published their genetic analysis in the Zoological Research Journal, categorizing a previously documented species into three different ones.

 

“The new species is critically endangered because its numbers are phenomenally low,” Miguez explained, “There are about four different populations, with the most viable population of the Popa langur containing just over a hundred individuals. In total across the five populations, we estimate between just 200 to 260 animals left.”

 

Whereas the study has indicated that the Popa langurs may have once been common all across central Myanmar, only a few groups have survived to this day. Within the last decade, the country has authorized international collaborations with scientists, BBC stated. This led to the discovery of new species ranging from reptiles to amphibians, though a new primate species is rarely discovered.

 

Home to over a hundred Popa langurs, Mount Popa also happens to hold an important wildlife sanctuary. Unfortunately, threats against the endangered primate species remained unresolved, CNN maintained. “Although Mount Popa is a national park, meaning the species that occur there are legally protected, hunting and deforestation for the timber industry and fuelwood still occur,” Miguez illustrates. Prompted by Myanmar’s rapid growth of industry in recent years, agricultural encroachment, environmental degradation, and disturbances to the land such as that of free cattle grazing contributed to the near extinction of the Popa langurs.

 

Following the study confirming the existence of the Popa langurs as a new species, scientists called for the addition of the Popa langurs to the lists of threatened species on international agencies, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

 

Miguez concluded, “The hope is that by giving this species the scientific status and notoriety it merits, there will be even more concerted efforts in protecting this area and the few other remaining populations.”