Dutch conservationist films elusive monkey, long thought to be extinct

A still from Jaap van der Waarde's film
A still from Jaap van der Waarde’s film

Dutch World Wildlife Fund conservationist Jaap van der Waarde has captured the first footage of a type of monkey long thought to be extinct in a Congolese nature park.

Van der Waarde took up the trail of Bouvier’s red colobus after a Belgian biologist spotted and photographed the animal in 2015.

His journey, which took him to the Ntokou-Pikounda National Park in Congo, was not an easy one, he told broadcaster NOS. ‘It took three days on foot in the jungle, in the middle of nowhere. I had malaria at the time so I was pretty sick,’ Van der Waarde said.

To find the primate, the researchers broadcast the sound of the animals’ main predator, the crowned eagle. ‘That made them call out in alarm. It’s a very specific noise and that is how we located them.’

It took just three days for Van der Waarde and his team to spot a group of five of the primates, including a baby. In the end he managed to capture just one of them on film. ‘It formed a rear guard to ensure the safety of the group, and kept an eye on us,’ Van der Waarde said.

The only known habitat of the Bouvier’s red colobus is in the national park and Van der Waarde said he is eager to continue his research there. ‘We don’t know what they eat, how they behave. We want to find out in what ways they are vulnerable so we can protect them,’ he said.

The WWF and the local authorities have pledged to keep the primate safe from poachers although there is little chance the primate will be targeted by bush meat traders, Van der Waarde said. ‘Its pelt is apparently very smelly and that makes the meat unappetising as well.’

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