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Critically Endangered Dryas Monkeys Caught on Video

Using camera traps, primatologists from the Lukuru Foundation Tshuapa-Lomani-Lualaba (TL2) Project are the first to capture video footage of a previously unknown population of the critically endangered Dryas monkey (Cercopithecus dryas).

Close-up of critically endangered Dryas monkeys (Cercopithecus dryas) now inhabiting the Lomami National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Image credit: Pablo Ayali, Lukuru Foundation.

Close-up of critically endangered Dryas monkeys (Cercopithecus dryas) now inhabiting the Lomami National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Image credit: Pablo Ayali, Lukuru Foundation.

First discovered in 1932 and believed to be nearing extinction due to its small population size and unregulated hunting, the Dryas monkey has perplexed scientists for decades because of its elusive nature.

Originally believed to inhabit only one site on the planet in the Congo basin, this primate is about the size of a house cat.

“The Dryas monkey is extremely cryptic and we had to think of a creative strategy to observe them in the wild,” said Dr. Kate Detwiler, a primatologist at Florida Atlantic University and a member of the TL2 team.

“These monkeys are drawn to dense thickets and flooded areas. When threatened, they quickly disappear into a tangle of vines and foliage, mastering the art of hiding.”

A new population of the species was discovered in the Lomami National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Dr. Detwiler also helped to discover a new species of primate, the Lesula monkey (Cercopithecus lomamiensis), in that same park in 2012.

“This was an opportunity of a lifetime,” said team member Daniel Aliempijevic, a graduate student at Florida Atlantic University.

“It was an incredible experience to work in the canopy of such a remote site, and to get the first camera-trap videos of an extremely rare and elusive species.”

Video footage from the camera traps are providing vital information about this critically endangered species as well as an array of other charismatic animals such as the bonobo, African palm civet, and potto who also inhabit the Lomami National Park.

“The Congo Basin rainforest is the second-largest rainforest in the world, and contains some of the least known species on the planet, many of which are threatened from hunting pressure and deforestation,” Dr. Detwiler said.

“Our goal is to document where new Dryas populations live and develop effective methods to monitor population size over time to ensure their protection.”

“Understanding where they reside is important, because the animals living inside the Lomami National Park are protected, as it is illegal to hunt.”