Professors Thomas Defler and Marta Bueno, and student Javier García, learned of the monkey’s existence through a scientific expedition to the Colombian Amazon. The discovery was described in the journal Primate Conservation and announced on August 12 by Conservation International, which helped finance the research.
The titi monkey (Callicebus caquetensis) was found in a remote area near the border with Ecuador and Peru that, for many years, had been too dangerous to explore because of insurgent groups.
In 2008 García, travelled to the upper Caquetá River, and using GPS and listening for calls, found 13 groups of the species. Martin Moynihan, an animal behaviour expert, first caught sight of the species about 30 years ago.
"This discovery is extremely exciting because we had heard about this animal, but for a long time we could not confirm if it was different from other titis,” Dr. Defler said in a Conservation International
press release. “We now know that this is a unique species, and it shows the rich diversity of life that is still to be discovered in the Amazon.”
The monkey is about the size of a cat, has grayish-brown hair, and a bushy red beard around its cheeks. It is believed that, unlike most primates, titi monkey are monogamous. Pairs are sometimes found sitting on branches with their tails entwined, and the animals seem to most often live in groups of about four.
It is estimated that fewer than 250 Caquetá titi monkeys exist, mainly because forests have been destroyed for agricultural purposes. The animals cannot move to other forest areas because of grassland or barbed wire fencing.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria, the small population and habitat conditions should place the monkey of the list of Critically Endangered (CR) species.
"This discovery is particularly important because it reminds us that we should celebrate the diversity of earth but also we must take action now to preserve it," José Vicente Rodríguez, head of science at Conservation International in Colombia and president of the Colombia Association of Zoology stated. "When world leaders meet later this year in Japan for the Convention on Biological Diversity, they must commit to the creation of many more protected areas if we want to ensure the survival of threatened creatures like this in the Amazon and around the world."