A Miller's grizzled langur pauses while drinking water from a mineral spring, or sepan, in 2011. Feared extinct, the monkey species has been "rediscovered" on the Indonesian island of Borneo, a new study says.
Scientists stumbled onto several of the primates last year during a biodiversity survey of the Wehea Forest, a 98,000-acre (40,000-hectare) habitat in Indonesia's East Kalimantan Province (map). Previously known to live only in a small area along East Kalimantan's central coast, the Wehea discovery extends the species' range.
Numbers of the 13-pound (6-kilogram) langur—known for its white, bristly beard and sideburns—had declined in the animal's coastal habitat due to deforestation, hunting, and large human-caused fires in the 1990s. Later surveys turned up no evidence of the monkey.
"I've been working [in Wehea] for four years—I study primates, and I've never seen it" until now, said study co-author Stephanie Spehar, a primatologist at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh. "The fact we found it did come as a big surprise to all of us."
Particularly exciting was that an independent survey team led by study co-author Brent Loken of Ethical Expeditions simultaneously spotted the langurs in another part of the forest. This suggests there are at least two healthy populations and not just an isolated group, said Spehar, whose study appears this month in the American Journal of Primatology.
"We were thrilled when we met up and showed each other our photos," she said.