New Monkey Species With Goose-Like Call Discovered

ByABC News
May 18, 2005, 9:14 AM

May 19, 2005 — -- When a team of scientists first heard hunters from Tanzania's Wanyakyusa tribe talk about a quiet, black-faced monkey that hung out in high elevations, they weren't sure if it was real or a "spirit" animal from the tribe's oral tradition.

"Sometimes the difference between real and spiritual animals is not clear-cut when you speak with the Wanyakyusa. So we went into the forest with one of the hunters," said Tim Davenport, director of Wildlife Conservation Society's Southern Highlands Conservation Program in southwestern Tanzania. "That was the only way we could determine it was real in the way we understand the term 'real' to be."

It turns out not only was the monkey real, it was also a species completely new to scientists.

The 3-foot-long tree-living animal with brown fur, a white belly and a punk-like crest of hair on its head has been called "kipunji" locally, and now has a scientific name: Lophocebus kupunji, or the highland mangabey. The animal may have eluded researchers for so long because it lives in high altitudes in the treetops and is generally a very quiet monkey.

When it does make a sound, however, it's a strange one. Davenport dubbed the male highland monkey's territorial call the "honk-bark."

"The honk part of the call sounds like a goose," Davenport explained, "and the bark part sounds like a dog. It's very unique for a monkey."

By sheer coincidence, the new species was almost simultaneously, but independently discovered by another group of scientists working 230 miles away in Tanzania's Ndundulu Forest Reserve.

It wasn't until members from each group were talking at a bar in Tanzania that they realized they had the same big find on their hands.

"My colleague, Carolyn Ehardt, told her friend at the bar that we had made an amazing discovery," recalled Trevor Jones, an anthropologist from the University of Georgia in Athens whose team had come across the same monkey just months after Davenport's group. "Her friend said, 'It wouldn't be a primate, would it?' She said, 'Yes!'"