When a new species of 'snub-nosed' monkey was discovered in 2010, the world's only glimpse came in the form of one researcher's photo-reconstruction since the elusive animal hadn't yet been photographed in the wild. But now, thanks to remote camera traps set in the forests of northern Myanmar, the very first photo of the distinctive-looking monkey, alive and free, have been captured -- offering important insights about a species still largely shrouded in mystery.
Although previously undiscovered by western scientists, for Myanmarese locals this 'snub-nosed' species was already fairly well known as "monkey with an upturned face" on account of its striking vissage. Also, they said because of its upward-aiming nose, the monkeys could be heard sneezing in the forests whenever it happened to rain. When researchers came to confirm its existence as a new species, all they had to go on was a dead specimen that had been poached by a hunter -- prompting them to release a photoshopped image of the animal along with their news release to the public.
Recently, however, camera traps installed in the species' rugged forest habitat yielded the first images of a living snub-nosed monkey.
"These images are the first record of the animal in its natural habitat," Ngwe Lwin, the first person to identify the monkey as a new species, tells Mongabay. "It is great to finally have photographs because they show us something about how and where it actually lives."
Among the images captured by the camera traps set out by researcher Jeremy Holden and his team was evidence of family groups -- an important discovery in an of itself regarding a species thought to number around 200 members.
"The images are poor quality compared to what we are now used to seeing from wildlife photographers, but this somehow exemplifies the fact that these monkeys are rare, mysterious, and on the brink," says Holden.
Few details may be known about snub-nosed monkeys in Myanmar given their recent discovery, but there is no doubt that they are imperiled due to a number of human threats, from hunting to habitat loss related to deforestation. The team involved in capturing photographs of the animal alive and in the wild hope it will help spur programs towards their protection -- lest such images are all that are to remain of them.