By Jeremy Hance
The attention paid to charismatic popular primates—such as gorillas, chimps, orangutans, lion tamarins, and even some lemurs—could make one suppose that conservationists have the protection of our closest relatives well in hand; the astounding fact that no primate species is known to have gone extinct in the last hundred years (despite large-scale destruction of their habitats) seems to confirm this statement. However, looking more closely at the data, one finds that not only are many of the world's primates slipping toward extinction, but a number of them have received little conservation attention. According to the IUCN Red List, a staggering 48 percent of the world's primates are threatened with extinction: that's a worse percentage than amphibians which have been ravaged by a global epidemic. And although a handful of the world's 600-plus primates have garnered conservation adoration, many remain obscure. None more so than the Niger Delta red colobus (Procolobus epieni), which, according to ongoing surveys by biologists in Nigeria, may be down to less than 500 individuals—and still isn't protected under Nigerian law.
"This rare primate is one of the most awe-inspiring wildlife within their range. My first experience of directly sighting this species in the wild is certainly unforgettable and even subsequent sightings are worthy of note. Being social animals [they\ are mostly seen in large groups and [...\ multi-species groups made up of other primates such as the Nigerian putty-nosed monkey, the Nigerian white-throated monkey, the Mona monkey and olive colobus monkey," Nigerian biologist Rachel Ashegbofe Ikemeh told mongabay.com. "There is really nothing that can be compared to observing a large group of monkey in the wild, feeding, playing and scurrying off from human view. There is an indescribable feeling of seeing something magnificent and much more it seems almost like observing vulnerable kids, making the most of life after their innocence has being taken away from them."
Found only in a small section of the wetland's marsh and swamp forests, the Niger Delta red colobus remained wholly unknown to scientists until 1993. When it was first uncovered, scientists thought it a subspecies of Pennant's colobus, but genetic research in 2007 upgraded the monkey to a full species in its own right. More....