Monkey Declared Extinct

By Nancy Steinbach

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

Scientists have announced that one kind of West African monkey has disappeared from the earth. The monkey is a Miss Waldron's red colobus.

Experts for the Wildlife Conservation Society failed to find any of the monkeys in six years of searching in Ghana and Ivory Coast. The searches ended last year.

The last confirmed sighting of a Miss Waldron's red colobus monkey was more than twenty years ago in a rainforest in Ghana. Scientists put the monkey on the list of endangered animals in Nineteen-Eighty-Eight. They blame the disappearance of the monkey on hunting, and the destruction of its environment by cutting trees, building roads and farming.

The disappearance of an animal group is known as extinction. It does not happen in a short period of time. The publication Conservation Biology reported a study describing the extinction of the Miss Waldron's red colobus over many years. Scientists say the disappearance of the Miss Waldron's red colobus is especially important. That is because monkeys are primates, members of the animal group most closely linked to humans.

A British wildlife collector, Willoughby Lowe, discovered the monkey in Nineteen-Thirty-Three. He named it for a woman who traveled with him.

The Miss Waldron's red colobus is one of about six kinds of red colobus monkeys. All are rare. Each red colobus weighs about nine kilograms. They have long arms, legs and tails. Red colobus monkeys eat the leaves at the tops of trees. They live together in large, noisy, social groups. As a result, they are popular targets for hunters who supply local markets with monkey meat.

Scientists say the Miss Waldron's red colobus is the first primate to become extinct in at least one-hundred years. But experts say it may not be the last. They say other large animals in the same area of Africa may also be in danger unless they are more strongly protected.

Africa is not the only area of the world where animals are in danger of becoming extinct. Several other primates are believed to be in danger. They include lemurs in Madagascar, tamarin monkeys in Brazil, langurs in Vietnam, and orangutans in Sumatra.

This VOA Special English Science Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.