A previously unknown species of uakari monkey was found during recent hunting trips in the Amazon, a New Zealand primatologist has announced.
Jean-Phillipe Boubli of the University of Auckland found the animal after following native Yanomamo Indians on their hunts along the Rio Aracá, a tributary of the Rio Negro in Brazil.
"They told us about this black uakari monkey, which was slightly different to the one we knew from Pico de Neblina National Park, where I'd worked earlier," Boubli said.
"I searched for that monkey for at least five years. The reason I couldn't find it was because the place where they were was sort of unexpected."
Uakaris normally live in flooded river forests, but this one turned up in a mountainous region on the Brazil-Venezuela border, far from its nearest relatives.
"There is another species of primate in that region which is very similar to the uakari," Boubli said.
The two compete ecologically, he added, "so wherever that monkey occurs, you don't expect to find uakaris. That's why I wasn't really looking in those places."
Boubli named the new monkey Cacajao ayresii after Brazilian biologist José Márcio Ayres.
As a senior zoologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, Ayres—who died in 2003—helped create a protected zone in the heart of the Amazon.
But the newfound Ayres uakari, Boubli said, appears confined to a very small area outside any preserve and is hunted by locals.
"We're going to have to create a park or reserve, because [its habitat is] not a protected area," he said.
"The population is quite small, so they are quite vulnerable. I'm a bit concerned."
Little is known about the creature's habits, but Boubli said it lives in social groups and is likely a seed-eater, based on his observations of other uakaris.