Monday, January 23, 2012

Extinct Dracula monkey found in Borneo

The humidity was oppressive and the leeches insufferable as an expedition led by Simon Fraser University PhD student Brent Loken waded into the jungles of the Wehea Forest in eastern Borneo.

Loken sought to document the forest's biodiversity and help the indigenous Dayak people advocate for its legal protection against Indonesian development for palm oil plantations, coal mines, or logging.

With remote cameras set up in the forest near two mineral licks, Loken had hoped to obtain photos of the elusive and littleknown clouded leopard.

What he got was a monkey--the Miller's grizzled langur--so rare that scientists consider it to be teetering on the edge of extinction. Even rarer, the discovery occurred where the monkey, which some say looks like Dracula, had not historically been documented.

"We knew we had something special," Loken, 40, recalled Thursday in an interview. "We knew it was unique because it is a very distinct-looking monkey."

The langur has a dark face, light front, grey back, and long tail. "The only descriptions came from museum specimens from the 1940s and '50s," he said. "Our pictures are some of the only ones we have."

Loken lives in Squamish and is finishing his PhD in resource and environmental management at SFU.

He is a former high school chemistry and physics teacher from Iowa who took an interest in Borneo during a visit in 2006.
Two years later, he co-founded Ethical Expeditions (, which integrates conservation, applied research and education with traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous peoples.

The non-profit organization led the almost 10-week expedition last summer involving 20 people, including a photographer, scientists, students, local people, even a tree-climber.

Between June and July, up to 11 of the langurs - a subspecies, under consideration for full species status - were observed in a single day at a single site. "It's one of those monkeys that when you walk through the forest you'll never know that it's there," Loken said.

The langur is at risk from loss and fragmentation of habitat and hunting in Indonesia. However, Loken said a few dozen Dayak people regularly patrol the 38,000-hectare Wehea Forest to help keep hunters out.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Extinct Dracula monkey found in Borneo

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