May 4
Photo of female mountain gorilla

Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei)

Species: Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The eastern gorilla is divided into two subspecies, the eastern lowland or Grauer’s gorilla, and the mountain gorilla.

Together with the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), the eastern gorilla is the largest of the living apes. Gorillas have characteristically robust, heavy bodies and dark, shaggy coats, and males are much larger than females. The eastern gorilla lives in stable family groups, led by a dominant ‘silverback’ male, and females in the group give birth around once every three to four years. The eastern lowland gorilla is found in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the mountain gorilla in two isolated populations in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The eastern gorilla faces a range of threats, including snares set for other wildlife, as well as deliberate poaching for bushmeat or to take infants as pets. This species is also surrounded by rapidly increasing human populations, and habitat destruction, illegal cattle grazing and timber extraction are also serious problems, as is political unrest in some areas. Fortunately, the eastern gorilla occurs largely in protected areas and a number of conservation programmes are underway to protect it. Mountain gorillas have been studied for decades, and in some places are protected by armed guards. Visits by tourists pose a risk of disease transmission to the gorillas, but these charismatic primates are recognised as an important source of tourist revenue, which may help to protect them.

Find out more about gorilla conservation at the International Gorilla Conservation Programme and the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

See images and videos of the eastern gorilla on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Apr 30

Disneynature’s latest film Chimpanzee,  which was exclusively previewed on the opening night of Wildscreen Festival 2012, is coming to cinemas across the UK on May 3rd.  Chimpanzee follows the remarkable story of Oscar, a baby chimp whose life takes a surprising turn after he is left all alone following a confrontation with a rival band of chimps. Here at the ARKive office to celebrate the release of this film we thought we would take a closer look at chimpanzees, our closest living relative.

A young chimpanzee

Along with the pygmy chimp and bonobo, the chimpanzee is the closest living relative to humans, and is estimated to share 98 percent of our genes. Chimpanzees are very social animals living in stable communities which range in size from 15 to 150 members. Male chimpanzees stay in the same community for their entire lives where a strict linear hierarchy is employed. 

Group of sleeping chimpanzees

Chimpanzees feed mainly on fruit, but when this is scarce they supplement their diet with leaves, seeds and insects. Another favourite food of chimpanzees is meat, with groups cooperating together to hunt and kill monkeys. Chimpanzees are highly intelligent animals and are one of few species known to use tools. They use sticks to remove ants or termites from their nests and stones to crack open nuts. Chimpanzees are also known to use leaves as sponges to absorb drinking water.

Chimpanzee using a rock to crack a palm nut

Female chimpanzees normally give birth to one infant which develops slowly. Young chimpanzees ride on their mothers back, gripping on to her fur, until the age of two and are not weaned until around four years old, although they retain strong ties with their mother after this. 

Female chimpanzee with her baby

Chimpanzees will often spend hours grooming each other, removing dirt, insects and seeds from each others fur. This not only keeps individuals dirt free and healthy, but it also helps to strengthen and maintain bonds between group members.

Chimpanzees grooming each other

To find out more visit ARKive’s chimpanzee species profile. 

Jemma Pealing
Media Researcher

Apr 6
Photo of cotton-headed tamarin crouched on branch

Cotton-headed tamarin (Saguinus oedipus)

Species: Cotton-headed tamarin (Saguinus oedipus)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The cotton-headed tamarin is named for the long white crest of fur around its otherwise black face.

One of South America’s most endangered primates, the cotton-headed tamarin is found only in Colombia, where it lives in tropical rainforests and dry deciduous forests. This small monkey lives in groups of up to 13 individuals, but only one dominant female in the group breeds, with the other group members helping to care for and carry the young. Like other tamarins and marmosets, the cotton-headed tamarin has claws rather than nails on most of its fingers and toes, allowing it to climb trees more easily, and its long tail aids with balance as the tamarin moves through the forest.

The main threat to the cotton-headed tamarin is the clearance of forests for timber, charcoal, agriculture and human settlement. Many of the remaining patches of forest may be too small to maintain tamarin populations in the long term. This species has also been collected for the pet trade and for biomedical research, but its export has now been banned. Proyecto Tití, a conservation programme for the cotton-headed tamarin, undertakes a range of conservation actions for this species, including field research, education projects, and developing agricultural training programmes and alternative incomes for local communities.

Find out more about cotton-headed tamarin conservation at Proyecto Tití.

Find out more about primate conservation at the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and Neotropical Primate Conservation.

See images and videos of the cotton-headed tamarin on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Mar 28

Scientists have discovered two new species of mouse lemur in Madagascar, bringing the total number of these tiny primate species to 20.

Photo of grey mouse-lemur

The grey mouse-lemur, one of 20 mouse lemur species currently known to science

The mouse lemurs were collected during field surveys in 2003 and 2007, and genetic analysis has now shown them to be distinct species. In a paper recently published in the International Journal of Primatology, the scientists named the new species the Marohita mouse lemur (Microcebus marohita) and the Anosy mouse lemur (Microcebus tanosi).

The Marohita mouse lemur is named after the forest in which it was collected, while the Anosy mouse lemur is named after its distribution in the Anosy region in southeast Madagascar.

Miniscule primates

Mouse lemurs are some of the smallest primates in the world. All are nocturnal and live in Madagascar’s forests, where they feed on a range of insects, fruit, flowers, sap and even small vertebrates, such as frogs and geckos.

Photo of grey mouse-lemur sniffing flowering plant

Although one of the largest mouse lemurs, the grey mouse-lemur is still one of the world’s smallest primates

The two new species are unusually large for mouse lemurs, with the Marohita mouse lemur reaching lengths of 28 centimetres and weights of about 78 grams. This makes it the largest of the known mouse lemurs. At 27 centimetres and around 50 grams, the Anosy mouse lemur becomes the second largest mouse lemur known to science.

New species discoveries

The rate at which new lemur species have been discovered in Madagascar has dramatically increased in the past decade. The mouse lemurs are one of the most species-rich groups of lemurs, but these tiny primates look so similar that genetic analysis is often the only way to tell them apart.

I would say that in general, it is highly unusual to describe new species of primates in this age of global travel and consequent access to remote areas of the planet,” said Anne Yoder, director of the Duke Lemur Center and one of the authors of the paper. “That said, the number of described lemur species has more than tripled in the last 10 years. A large number of these new species have been mouse lemurs.”

Photo of Goodman's mouse lemurs in nest

Goodman’s mouse lemur was only discovered in 2005

Mouse lemurs under threat

Like many of Madagascar’s lemurs, the new mouse lemurs are likely to be under threat from human activities. Since the Marohita mouse lemur was first collected, much of the forest it inhabits has been cleared, and the scientists have classified the species as Endangered. The status of the Anosy mouse lemur is not yet known, but it is likely that it will also be classified as Endangered.

Further field studies have been recommended to assess the distribution and population sizes of the newly described lemurs, so that appropriate conservation measures can be put in place to protect them.

Conserving lemurs

The researchers point out the importance of identifying lemur species if they are to be protected. “Knowing exactly how many species we have is essential for determining which areas to target for conservation,” said Peter Kappeler of the German Primate Center, one of the authors of the paper.

Photo of Madame Berthe's mouse lemur resting on a branch

Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List

According to Yoder, “I suspect that there are even more mouse lemur species out there to be found… Mouse lemurs are morphologically cryptic, they are tiny, they are nocturnal, and they occur in remote places. It therefore makes a lot of sense that the harder we look, the more species we will find.”

As well as identifying and protecting new lemur species, it will also be important to continue working towards the conservation of all lemurs in Madagascar. Public awareness will be an important part of this.

I have found that the Malagasy people take great pride in their lemurs, as soon as they understand that Madagascar is unique in having lemurs, and also, that certain lemurs are specific only to a particular area,” said Yoder. “Also, and obviously, the government needs to participate in protecting the forests, and in providing economic alternatives to slash and burn agriculture to the Malagasy people.”

 

Read more on this story at Mongabay – 2 ‘giant’ yet tiny mouse lemurs identified in Madagascar and at Scientific American Blogs – Two new species of mouse lemur found in Madagascar.

Find out more about newly discovered species on ARKive.

View photos and videos of mouse lemurs on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Dec 29
Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) photo

Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus)

Species: Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus)

 Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The Barbary macaque is the only primate, apart from humans, to live in Europe, and the only macaque to live outside of Asia.

The Barbary macaque can be found in Algeria, Morocco, and Gibraltar. These large monkeys are highly social and live in troops of 12 to 60. In an unusual mating system, females may mate with all male members of the troop. This means that males can never be sure of paternity and encourages all males to play with, groom and protect the young troop members.

Barbary macaques were once found throughout North Africa but now only exist in small areas. This species is threatened by habitat loss from logging and human settlements, as well as hunting, forest fires, livestock grazing and drought. Seen as a symbol of Gibraltar and valued as a tourist attraction, these macaques are given some protection. There are plans to reintroduce these monkeys to national parks in Libya and Tunisia. Active and effective conservation policies are needed to protect this charismatic species.

Find out more about the Barbary macaque on the Natural History Museum website.

See images and videos of the Barbary macaque on ARKive.

Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Researcher

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