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The Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) headed by Dr. Mukesh Takur have discovered a new mammal species in some remote areas of Anjaw district in central Arunachal Pradesh, India. It is the India’s Newest White Cheeked Macaque. In 2015, this species was already spotted by a team of scientists from china barely 200 km aerial distance from where it was first spotted in China — in Modog in Southeastern Tibet. The discovery at that time was considered to be a major breakthrough as far as primates are concerned.
Recently the count of this species in India increased to 438. The significance of the discovery is that it marks a new addition to mammals of India. The discovery has been published in the February 3 issue of international journal ‘Animal Gene’.
The nine scientists from the Zoological Survey of India in the paper stated that the White-Cheeked Macaque is not yet added in the Wildlife Act 1972 of India and so the current research laid the foundation in promoting field studies in Central Arunachal Pradesh to portray distribution boundary and population size of the new mammal in the state.
There was a lot of controversy among the primatologist regarding the existence of this new species in the earliest of 2015 about the photographic capture of the species from the Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh . The scientists behind the new discovery of the White-Cheeked Macaque are researchers under Lalit Sharma and Dr. Thakur who are the head of wildlife section of the Zoological Survey of India.
Characteristics Of White Cheeked Macaque
- The white-cheeked macaque is a species of macaque and it lives in forest habitats.
- The species can be found in many different habitats, from tropical forest at 1,395 m, to primary and secondary evergreen broad-leaved forest at 2,000 m, as well as mixed broadleaf-conifer forest at 2,700 m.
- The scientific name of this species is Macaca leucogenys
- It is one of twenty-three extant species in the genus Macaca and the most recent to be formally described to science.
- It is the last mammal to have been discovered in Southeast Asia.
- This newly-discovered species is robust, heavy-bodied with a relatively short tail.
- It can be distinguished from all other known macaque species by a suite of characteristics including relatively uniform dorsal pelage, hairy ventral pelage, relative hairless short tail, prominent pale to white side- and chin-whiskers creating a white cheek and round facial appearance, dark facial skin on the muzzle, and long and thick hairs on neck.
- According to the scientists, adult white-cheeked macaques give high-frequency alarm calls in the presence of humans.
Uniqueness Of White Cheeked Macaque
- It has distinct white cheeks, long and thick hair on the neck and a longer tail.
- It has been founded to be the last mammal in Southeast Asia.
- This species is not covered by the Wildlife Protection Act of India, as it is not known that the species existed in India.
- Both the Arunachal Macaque as well as the White Cheeked Macaque exist in the same biodiversity hotspot in the eastern Himalayas.
Dr. Mukesh Takur said he is certain that after further exploration of this mammal species will lead to more populations of the White Cheeked Macaque in eastern Arunachal, which is closer to where the Chinese White Cheeked Macaque was found, and that there is a high likelihood of the animal being present in Bhutan as well. Dr.Takur also added that “the discovery of this species not only being included in the wildlife list but also being covered by the Wildlife Protection Act of India, which presently doesn’t cover it simply because we didn’t know it existed in India.” He also proposed to Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) for the monitorization of this species.
Dhriti Banerjee, the Director of ZSI said that the present study is pragmatic evidence of using non-invasive genetics to discover hidden biodiversity in landscapes where direct sighting of rare and elusive species is difficult due to dense canopy cover, low logistic feasibility and highly rugged terrain. Along with White-Cheeked Macaques and Arunachal Macaque the other species of Macaques are Assamese Macaque (Macaca assamensis ) and Rhesus Macaque ( Macaca mulatta ) reported from the same landscape.
The potential threat to all species of Macaques in the landscape are due to hunting by locals for consumption and habitat degradation due to urbanisation and infrastructure development.
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