A scientific expedition to the Colombian Amazon has revealed a new species of titi monkey (Callicebus caquetensis), Conservation International announced today. However, the exciting news is tinged with concern as researchers from the National University of Colombia who discovered the new primate consider it to be critically endangered due to rapid loss of the forest where it lives and its small population.
The discovery, described in the journal Primate Conservation, was made by the professors Thomas Defler, Marta Bueno and student Javier García, after an expedition to the Department of Caquetá, close to the border with Ecuador and Peru, in 2008 – more than three decades after the renowned animal behavior expert Martin Moynihan visited the area and mentioned his observations of the species.
For many years, it was impossible to travel to Caquetá due to the presence of insurgent groups. When violence subsided about three years ago, García, a native of Caquetá, was able to travel to the upper Caquetá River, and using GPS, searching on foot and listening for calls, he found 13 groups of the new species. Titi monkeys (or zogui zogui as they are called in Spanish) have one of the most complex calls in the animal kingdom and use it every morning to mark their territory.
“This discovery is extremely exciting because we had heard about this animal, but for a long time we could not confirm if it was different from other titis. We now know that this is a unique species, and it shows the rich diversity of life that is still to be discovered in the Amazon,” said Dr. Defler.
The Callicebus caquetensis is the size of a cat. It has grayish-brown hair, but does not have a white bar on its forehead as many other species of Callicebus most closely related to it. Its long tail is stippled with grey, and it has a bushy red beard around its cheeks. Unlike most primates, Caquetá titi monkeys (and probably all titi monkeys) are monogamous – they form life-long relationships, and pairs are often seen sitting on a branch with their tails entwined. They usually have one baby per year. As a new baby arrives, the parents force the oldest baby to leave to allow them to focus on the newborn (this is based on information collected from closely related species). The families of this species stick together in groups of about 4 individuals and can be seen in the trees close to some of the main rivers of Caquetá.