Gone? Nope -- Cameras spot monkeys believed extinct on Borneo

Miller's grizzled langurs sit in a tree in Wehea forest in Indonesia.
A monkey species believed to be extinct has been spotted in the Indonesian jungle, the Associated Press reports. Scientists were surprised to find the Miller’s grizzled langur well outside the areas it was once known to roam, caught on tape in June with a camera trap on the eastern tip of Borneo Island. The team of local and foreign scientists published their findings Friday in the American Journal of Primatology.

The discovery underscores the trickiness of declaring a species extinct. Primate specialist Anthony Rylands, of the nonprofit Conservation International, said scientists avoid declaring an animal extinct until exhaustive surveys in its known habitat have failed to spot it for at least 50 years. The Associated Press reports the langur was feared gone after an extensive field survey turned up empty in 2005.

But finding monkeys can be especially tricky because they scatter when humans approach, Rylands said. The Miller's grizzled langur have been hunted for their meat and bezoar stones, a “rather disgusting little ball of matter” in their stomachs believed to be an antidote to poison, Rylands said. The monkeys were also imperiled by massive forest fires that destroyed their habitat.

Although it may seem surprising that an "extinct" animal can be found, new species are still being discovered, even among seemingly hard-to-miss animals like monkeys. Since 1990, scientists have run into 93 previously unknown species of primates, more than half from Madagascar.

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 -- Emily Alpert

Photo:  Miller's grizzled langurs sit in a tree in Wehea forest in eastern Borneo, Indonesia. Scientists working in the dense jungles of Borneo have rediscovered the large, gray monkey that became so rare that it was believed by many to be extinct. Credit: Eric Fell / Ethical Expeditions

 

 
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