Researchers discover rare white-cheeked macaque species in Arunachal Pradesh

While searching in forests of Arunachal Pradesh, a team of researchers has discovered a primate species. The unprecedented discovery of the white-cheeked macaque (Macaca leucogenys) was made in the Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh. The rare discovery shows India’s rich biodiversity and it is an invaluable addition to country’s list of primates.

A team of researchers headed by Dr Ranjan Kumar Das, Udayan Borthakur and Dr Dilip Chetry along with the professional bird guide Binanda Hatibarua matched photographs of a group of macaque captured from easternmost district of India. The photos were taken last year in March 2015 and it took researchers over a year to confirm that the new species do not match with any present macaque species including Rhesus macaque, Arunachal macaque, Tibetan macaque and Assamese macaque.

“On the basis of our observations, the photographs and experts’ comments, we have come to the conclusion that the macaques we observed and photographed in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh are white-cheeked macaque,” Dr Dilip Chetry, primatologist and the head of Primatology Division at wildlife NGO Aaranyak said.

“This new macaque species was found to exploit a diverse set of habitat types from tropical forest at 1395 m, to primary and secondary evergreen broad-leaved forest at 2000 metres, as well as mixed broadleaf-conifer forest at 2700 metres,” said Dr Li  Cheng from Modog of Tibet in China.

The newly discovered species has body covered with fur. It has uniform dorsal hair patterns, round facial appearance, dark facial skin, long and thick hair on its neck, prominent pale to white side, and chin-whiskers creating a white cheek while it has small hairless tail.

“I am truly excited to be a part of this discovery and to contribute to the understanding of the species through my photography work,” said Dr Ranjan Kumar Das, a bird expert from the region and Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Tinsukia College.

According to experts, the species spreads across Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh. At present, the white-cheeked macaque is endangered species due to illegal hunting by humans.

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