Return of an Extinct Congo Monkey


By Julianne Glaser

First observed in the forests of the Republic of the Congo in 1887, the rare Old World Bouvier’s red colobus monkeys (Piliocolobus bouvieri) were distinguished by their reddish fur, large eyes, white chin and whiskers and long tail. Originally considered a sub-species of Pennant’s Colobus monkeys native to Central Africa, they were reclassified as a distinct species in 2007.

In the 1970s, scientists failed to find a single Bouvier’s red in Central Africa and declared the species extinct. Amazingly, in February 2015 primatologists working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo photographed a Bouvier’s red colobus mother and infant.

Photographic Evidence Reverses Extinction Status

Primatologists Lieven Devreese and Gael Elie Gnondo Gobolo set out on a mission into the Ntokou- Pikounda National Park to prove the existence of the “Old World” Bouvier’s red colobus monkey.

As reported in UPI Science News, the researchers were aided by local guides who provided knowledge of the colobus monkeys. With their help, Devreese and Gnondo Gobolo located not just one, but a whole troop of Bouvier’s monkeys living in the swamp forests near the Ntokou-Pikounda National Park. Though previous sightings had been reported, “Our photos are the world’s first and confirm that the species is not extinct,” says Devreese.

The Bouvier’s red colobus monkeys lack a fear of humans and continue to be vulnerable to hunting in their natural habitat. James Deutsch, vice president of conservation strategy at Wildlife Conservation Society remains hopeful: “confirmation that Bouvier’s red colobus still thrive in this area reminds us that there remain substantially intact wild places on Earth, and this should re-energize all of us to save them…”

Devreese and Gnondo Gobolo’s discovery of a substantial population will provide an opportunity for researchers to study this elusive species in its natural habitat.

Extension Questions

  • Research the Congo Rainforest. Describe its size, location, climate, and animal and plant life
  • What does “colobus” mean and how does this name describe the Bouvier’s Red Colobus monkeys?
  • What other animals thought to be extinct have been rediscovered?
  • What are the differences between Old World and New World monkeys?