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Surprise! Hidden Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkey Colony Discovered

(Image credit: Neotropical Primate Conservation.)

A hidden colony of endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkeys was recently discovered in Peru.

The colony was found by a team of international researchers from Neotropical Primate Conservation, a U.K. charity. The yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) is native to a small part of the Andean cloud forest in northeastern Peru, and is so rare that it was thought extinct until a few sightings in the mid-1970s.

A monkey with a bright yellow tail would seem easy to find, but studying this species has been nearly impossible. Not only does the yellow-tailed woolly monkey live in the remote valleys and steep mountains of Peru, but their home is also cocaine country and a former stronghold of Communist guerrillas.

The findings represent the first record of this species in the Peruvian area of La Libertad since 1974, and the first time that it has been reported in the area of Huanuco. These areas are often overlooked by conservationists as most of the known range of the monkey is found in the neighboring areas of Amazonas and San Martin.

"This is a find of significant importance for the conservation of this emblematic primate," said Sam Shanee, study team leader. "With such a small wild population, these new areas give new hope for the species' survival. There are already initiatives under way for the protection of the yellow-tailed woolly monkeys, which we hope will now include protection of these new populations."

(Image credit: Neotropical Primate Conservation.)

Neotropical Primate Conservation is working closely with locals to encourage and support conservation, said Noga Shanee, the other half of the husband-and-wife team that founded the organization in 2007.

"Local communities are enthusiastic about cooperating and even initiating conservation work," Shanee said. "They make us very optimistic for the future of this very special monkey."

Live Science Staff
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