Scientists capture first images of rare Burmese monkey
Conor Duffy, Environment reporter
Burma's extremely rare and elusive species of snub-nosed monkey has been captured on camera for the first time.
The remote mountainous forests of Burma's north are home to the monkey, an animal so elusive it was not documented until 2010 when one of them fell to a hunter.
While researchers obtained a number of other deceased animals and observed them in the wild, the monkeys had never been photographed.
Now a joint team led by Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA) and People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF) have captured images of the monkey.
"The Myanmar snub-nosed monkey was described scientifically in 2010 from a dead specimen collected from a local hunter," Frank Momberg of FFI said.
"As yet no scientist has seen a live individual."
Ngwe Lin from Burma was with the 2010 team that first identified the monkey as a possible new species.
"These images are the first record of the animal in its natural habitat," Ngwe Lin said.
Much of what is known about it comes from information from locals.
Hunters have reported that the monkey's tiny, upturned nose means it constantly sneezes when it rains, sometimes giving away its location.
The animals are said to crouch down with their face to the ground to avoid rain.
Heavy rainfall and snow also made life hard for the team trying to track the species.
Jeremy Holden is based in Phnom Penh, but led the camera trapping expedition.
"We were dealing with very tough conditions in a remote and rugged area that contained perhaps fewer than 200 monkeys," he said.
"We didn't know where they lived and I didn't hold out much hope of short-term success with this work."
But in May a small group of monkeys walked past the camera trap and images were taken for the first time.
Encouragingly for the research team, some of the females were carrying babies.
Environment groups remain concerned about the future of the species and next month they plan on writing a conservation plan for the monkeys in Burma's largest city Rangoon.
"It is great to finally have photographs because they show us something about how and where it actually lives."
The photos were taken by camera traps set up in the forested mountains of Kachin State, bordering China.
The species is among the world's most threatened primates with estimates of its numbers ranging from 200 to about 330.