red colobus monkey|graham_inglis||02/10/04 at 18:17:16|graham_inglis|xx|0||(

New evidence suggests that a monkey thought extinct still exists.

After years of searching for a rare African primate, anthropologist Scott McGraw and his colleagues believed that the Miss Waldron’s red colobus monkey, Procolobus badius waldroni, was probably extinct. They had written a paper in 2000 saying so.

But recent hard evidence of the Miss Waldron’s red colobus’ existence has rekindled McGraw’s hopes of finding the primate, reportedly last seen in 1978. McGraw, an associate professor of anthropology at Ohio State University, details the evidence and his continuing search for the elusive monkey in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Primatology.

Miss Waldron’s red colobus is a small, black monkey with reddish fur on its forehead and thighs. Researchers think that these primates once lived in large, noisy packs in the canopy rainforests of eastern Ivory Coast and western Ghana. Current evidence suggests that, if the monkey is still alive, it’s range may be limited to the remote southeastern corner of Ivory Coast.

If the monkey were indeed extinct, it would be the first primate to have disappeared in 200 years.

McGraw has spent the better part of a decade traveling to Ivory Coast conducting research on various African monkeys, and always on the lookout for Miss Waldron’s red colobus. To date, he has neither seen nor heard one.

Even so, the last few years have yielded some interesting evidence for McGraw. A year ago, he received a photo of what looks like an adult Miss Waldron’s red colobus – albeit a freshly killed one.

"This is the only known photograph of a Miss Waldron’s red colobus, and it’s dead," said an exasperated McGraw. "But everyone who knows anything about this primate says it’s definitely a Miss Waldron’s."

Two years ago, an Ivorian hunter gave McGraw the skin of a monkey with reddish markings. The man told McGraw that this monkey had been traveling with a pack of black and white colobus monkeys, and that he hadn’t seen any other monkeys in the group with reddish markings. The skin is now framed and hangs on the wall in McGraw’s Columbus office.

In 2001, again in Ivory Coast, another hunter gave McGraw a black tail from a monkey. Two black-tailed monkey species inhabit the country’s southwestern forests. Subsequent DNA testing proved that the tail did indeed come from a red colobus monkey. Ironically, the hunter said he had shot the animal only a week after McGraw had left the country in 2000.

McGraw has not been to Ivory Coast since the winter of 2002. While the country’s nine-month civil war was declared over last July, tensions remain high as the country remains politically split. McGraw continues to rely on the Ivorian hunters he knows to keep him informed about sightings of Miss Waldron’s red colobus. He’s even offered monetary awards to hunters who hear or see the primate.

That relationship is somewhat tenuous. Hunting is illegal in Ivory Coast, but the laws aren’t enforced, McGraw said. Bush meat has become something of a delicacy, and many people living in the country’s remote areas hunt to eat or sell the meat. Add to that a loss of about 85 percent of the country’s original forest cover, and the outlook for Miss Waldron’s red colobus doesn’t seem very promising.

"When most of the forest is destroyed and the human population skyrockets and the most remote villages get shotguns, we can’t expect to have a good number of these primates around," said McGraw, who is also an associate professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology. "But if this monkey is extinct, then something has gone very, very wrong, as primates are pretty resilient."

McGraw is eager to return to Ivory Coast and start anew the tedious search for Miss Waldron’s red colobus. He and his colleagues are also trying to organize a conservation program in the country to help save animals that are near extinction.

If the monkey is extinct, the ramifications may be felt on a significant number of levels.

"Its extinction may represent the beginning of a wave of extinctions which will make their way across this part of Africa," McGraw said. "There could be a cascade of disappearances, including all of those animals that are dependent on high-canopy forests. "Since there’s very little canopy area left, this list could include forest elephants, leopards, chimpanzees, and so on."

Funding for McGraw’s work comes from Conservation International, Primate Conservation Incorporated, the American Society of Primatology, the New York Zoological Society and Ohio State.|| Re: red colobus monkey|Richard_F||03/16/04 at 23:38:03|richard_F|xx|0||Baltimore Sun:
Here again, gone tomorrow?
Evidence: A rare creature called Miss Waldron's red colobus was declared
extinct four years ago, but fresh carcasses keep turning up.
By David Kohn
Originally published March 8, 2004

Reports of Miss Waldron's demise have been exaggerated, it seems. Not
greatly, but exaggerated nonetheless.

Miss Waldron's red colobus - a lumbering, finicky, tree-dwelling monkey that
lives in parts of West Africa - is not extinct after all, scientists say.
All but written off four years ago, the species has since made several
ghostly appearances.

The same scientists who first announced its demise now say the creature is
likely still with us, just barely.

"There do seem to be a few Miss Waldrons hanging on in the far corner of
Ivory Coast," said New York University primate expert John Oates, who
co-wrote the original paper.

That article, which appeared four years ago in Conservation Biology, caused
a stir among conservationists and the public. No primate had become extinct
for more than a century, and many observers were distressed that humans had
allowed such a close relative to disappear forever.

But the monkeys themselves apparently hadn't heard the bad news. A few
months after the article appeared, a hunter in Ivory Coast approached one of
the authors, anthropologist Scott McGraw, and showed him the tail of a
monkey he had recently killed. DNA tests proved the tail came from a Miss

Then in 2002, McGraw walked into a village in Ivory Coast and saw a monkey
hide hanging on a clothesline. The hide, which was spotted with freshly
dried blood, had red fur on its thighs and brow, unmistakable Miss Waldron's
markings. Then last year, McGraw's former employee in Ivory Coast sent a
recent photo of himself next to a monkey carcass. McGraw is sure the corpse
was a Miss Waldron's.

'Can't find a live one'

So McGraw has written a paper describing the macabre new evidence. It will
appear this spring in the International Journal of Primatology.

"I'm thrilled, but the maddening thing is we can't find a live one," said
McGraw, an associate professor at Ohio State University. In 2002, he spent
three weeks tromping through the forest where Miss Waldrons most likely
dwell, but didn't see any. He hopes to return this summer to continue the

Compared with many animals, primates have suffered few extinctions. The last
one to vanish was the giant aye-aye, a lemur that lived in Madagascar until
the 19th century. But many primates are declining, and 55 of the world's 640
species are in serious danger of extinction, says primate expert Russ
Mittermeier, the president of Conservation International.

Among these animals is the Cross River gorilla. Only 150 or so still
survive, along the border between Nigeria and Cameroon.

Mittermeier thinks a few Miss Waldrons still survive. If a group of the
monkeys can be found, Conservation International would fund a program to
protect them, he said.

Local hunters familiar with the forest say the species is not hard to find.
"Everyone we talked to said they were in there," McGraw said.

But finding the monkey will not be easy. The region, which spans the border
between Ivory Coast and Ghana, is a fetid swamp. "It's a horrible place, a
very unpleasant place to work," said McGraw. "You get leeches all over you."
The area has no name; McGraw calls it the Ehy Forest because it stands
beside the Ehy (Ee-hie) Lagoon.

If it is still around, Miss Waldron's red colobus is not out of the woods,
so to speak. "It doesn't change the larger picture. It's still a desperate
situation," said Oates, McGraw's partner in the quest for the missing

The population of the creature, which stands 3 feet tall and weighs about 20
pounds, has been ravaged by habitat loss from rampant logging, as well as by
the explosion in "bush-meat" hunting - killing wild animals for food. In
2002, civil war broke out in Ivory Coast, flooding the region with small
arms and pushing refugees into the bush, where they eat whatever they can

The monkey is not the only endangered creature in the region. Bush-meat
hunting has emptied huge tracts of West African forest. "You can walk for
hours or days without seeing any large mammals," said Oates.

Miss Waldron's is particularly vulnerable to hunting, scientists say.
"They're loud, conspicuous and somewhat clumsy," said Oates. They tend to
stay in large groups - as many as 100 when they were plentiful. McGraw
describes them, affectionately, as "not too bright."

(Humans are not alone in exploiting these flaws: chimpanzees hunt and eat
their smaller relatives. "The poor things get a double whammy from the human
evolutionary lineage," Oates said ruefully.)

Miss Waldron's has other weaknesses. Unlike some colobus species - there are
more than 15 - Miss Waldron's does not adapt well to habitats besides its
native rain forest.

The creature is also a very picky eater: It cannot survive in captivity
because no one has been able to replicate its varied diet of plants, fruits
and seeds. "The recipe is too precise," said McGraw.

The species was discovered in 1933 by Willoughby P. Lowe, a hunter working
for British museums (during his explorations, he shot eight of the animals).
Lowe named his discovery after his "traveling companion," a Miss F. Waldron,
about whom nothing more is known. The monkey itself is almost as mysterious:
As far as anyone can tell, it has never been photographed alive.

For decades, conservationists have warned that Miss Waldrons could
disappear. The last confirmed sighting of a live animal was 26 years ago. In
1993, concerned that the monkey had become extinct, Oates and McGraw began
searching the Ehy forest. After six years of fruitless looking, they decided
it had likely vanished.

At the time, not everyone was convinced. "I kind of want to say 'I told you
so.' I never thought there was sufficient evidence to call it extinct," said

Species come, species go

But others weren't surprised by the seeming false alarm and noted that such
mistakes occur regularly. "The extinct category is quite dynamic. Things go
on the list all the time, and then they turn up again," said conservation
biologist Craig Hilton-Taylor, who oversees the World Conservation Union's
Red List, the accepted registry of all endangered and extinct plants and
animals on the planet.

Such reappearing creatures are called "Lazarus species," a reference to the
biblical figure who rose from the dead. Hilton-Taylor noted two recent
examples, the Bavarian pine vole and the Lord Howe Island stick insect. A
small rodent, the vole supposedly disappeared in 1962. Four years ago, a
small population was found living in Austria.

The insect, which is 8 inches long (it's also called the "tree lobster"),
had last been seen in 1920 on Lord Howe Island off the coast of Australia.
In 2001, researchers found a colony on a rocky outcropping near the island.

In 1974, Mittermeier himself rediscovered an "extinct" primate, the
yellow-tailed wooly monkey, which lives in the northern Peruvian Andes.
Until Mittermeier's sighting, the creature had been AWOL for almost a

McGraw worries that even if Miss Waldron's does reappear, there won't be
enough of them to assure long-term survival of the species.

"I hope we're wrong," he said. "I hope we go in and find 400 of them living
happily ever after||