Monday, 16 March 2015

Rembrandt's monkey: good news for Africa's newest primate

Camera traps in the Democratic Republic of Congo reveal that Africa’s lesula monkey is ‘one of the few good news stories in primatology’

Friday 13 March 2015 10.15 GMTLast modified on Sunday 15 March 201513.11 GMT

It all started with Georgette’s pet monkey. Deep in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rainforest, in the remote village of Opala, a team of researchers noticed a little girl with a strange-looking monkey on a leash in 2007. The girl, Georgette, told the scientists it was called ‘lesula,’ but no one had heard of it nor did the animal look like anything found in the DRC. They snapped a photo.

Five years – and tonnes of research – later, the world officially met Africa’s newest monkey via a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE. The news made headlines around the world, aided by a portrait so soulful the Guardian’s art critic compared it to a Rembrandt painting. The media soon moved on – as it is apt to do – but that was really only the beginning of the story.

Half-way across the world in Florida, prospective student Steven McPhee, then a bartender with a penchant for solo globe-trotting, met with anthropology professor, Kate Detwiler at Florida Atlantic University.

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