Newly discovered Popa langur (Trachypithecus popa)
Photo Credit: nhm.ac.uk
On the 11th November 2020 a new langur species, the Popa langur (Trachypithecus popa), was described. Resembling other species of langur, the Popa langur has been described as ‘cute’, and ‘beautiful’ by director of program development at Fauna and Flora International (FFI). The Popa langur resides in Myanmar and was named after an extinct volcano, Mount Popa where the scattered langur population lives. One of 20 known langur species within the genus Trachypithecus, the popa langur shares its DNA closely with its cousin the Phayre’s langur (T.phayrei).
“It looks like a bespectacled uncle. It makes it very cute, and very beautiful” - Frank Momberg, Director of program development for the Asia-Pacific region at Fauna & Flora International (FFI).
The discovery of the Popa langur began in a laboratory. A team of international researchers, led by Christian Roos of the German Primate Center (DPZ) – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research in Göttingen alongside Fauna & Flora International (FFI), compared tissue samples from various museum specimens. An array of samples included 100-year-old specimen from London’s National History Museum. Scientists also drew results from faecal material taken from captive and wild animals. Body and craniodental (analysis of skull and teeth) measurements were also taken directly from museum specimens. The team sampled for genetic similarities and compared morphological results, and after several years of analysis they finally published their findings in Zoological Research Journal on November 11th, 2020.
Populations have been located in two key areas. The safest and largest population is thought to inhabit Mount Popa National Park in the Mandalay region of Central Myanmar. The other known population have been found partially in Panlaung-pyadalin Cave Wildlife Sanctuary in Shan state, Myanmar.
(Top) Panlaung-pyadalin Cave Wildlife Sanctuary, Photo credit: Tour HQ. (Bottom) Mount Popa, Photo credit: Perry L Wood Jr.
Threats currently thought to affect the Popa langurs status is thought to include hunting pressures, habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation. With the Mount Popa population facing isolation due to the surrounding habitat being converted to agriculture, the Panlaung-pyadalin population is thought to overlap with limestone concession. The habitat supporting the Mount Popa population is highly isolated from other habitats due to agricultural practices. Scientists have suggested that the current habitat is far too small to sustain a growing population of Popa langurs.
Difference between Habitat Destruction and Habitat Fragmentation explained.
Not yet assessed by the IUCN Redlist (International Union for Conservation of Nature), its estimated population is around 200-260 individuals. Although not yet assessed, it is clear this species falls under CR (critically endangered) due to its small home range and population.
There is always a rush of excitement within the conservation world when a new species is described. It is incredible to think the number of species we haven’t yet discovered in just primatology, let alone throughout the whole animal kingdom. However, these discoveries can be bittersweet. As scientists discover these species, many are already in critical danger of becoming extinct. Almost immediately, conservationists must map out a conservation plan for the species, start outreach programmes and undertake essential research to understand how this species can have a chance of survival.
New species of langur, Popa langur (Trachypithecus popa).
Photo Credit: Thaung Win, German Primate Center DPZ