A titillating surprise: A new species of titi monkey!

© Javier García

A young female Caquetá Titi Monkey.
© Javier García
Click the photo to learn more about this species and listen to its calls.

Today, CI announced the discovery of a new species of titi monkey (Callicebus caquetensis) on a scientific expedition in the Colombian Amazon. Research team lead Dr. Thomas Defler blogs about the discovery and the challenges of working in regions of armed conflict.

Studying Colombian primates has always been difficult, as they tend to live as far from human beings as possible. But after many years of learning about these primates, I have a long list of places I would go if didn’t have to worry about death or capture by revolutionary guerillas in Colombia.

In recent years, one of my biggest priorities was to follow up on Martin Moynihan’s 1976 sighting of a seemingly new species of titi monkey in southern Caquetá province. Since the 1970s the area has been under the dominion of these guerillas, who have made a great part of Colombia off-limits to foreigners. An impossible situation for a lowly foreign primatologist, no matter how many years I’ve been here! This situation has also been true in many other corners of the country where real conservation work is desperately needed.

During the last eight years, President Uribe has made an effort to fulfill campaign promises to improve security for all Colombians – an especially important goal for people in the countryside. Still, southern Caquetá seemed a bit risky for me.

Then one day, three years ago, I met a biology student named Javier Garcia who was searching for a meaningful conservation project. He was from Florencia, the capital of Caquetá, and – very important as well – his father was a veterinarian well-known in southern Caquetá where the monkey was said to live. Javier had no idea that I had been waiting for someone like him for years. I proposed the project, and he was immediately interested. He only needed direction, and I was ready to direct.

This discovery was made possible by an international network of interested and supportive people. The folks at CI had also heard about this possible new species of monkey, and, together with a small grant from the Primate Action Fund, they were willing to give us the basic support we needed to make the expedition a success.

Using local transportation, and geo-referencing observations with GPS, the monkey was spotted, just a few days after Javier’s arrival in Caquetá.

IN DEPTH: Read more about this expedition.
Callicebus caquetensis. © Javier García

Look for the official write-up of this species in Primate Conservation Number 25.

You might also enjoy:
Conservation in Conflict Zones
Discovering Species


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  3. Miguel says

    Congratulations on your discovery! I was wondering if this specific region has been sprayed with herbicides, one of most widely used and controversial weapons against coca growing in the Colombian Amazon. According to your report, this titi is nearly extinct due to deforestation. Why are they limited to this particular region? I hope the government would protect this region as a titi sanctuary. Thanks and good luck to the project.

  4. kiran shabana says

    wonderful………..congratulations …surly government will do something positive for conservation of this endangered species…..best of luck.

  5. Dr. Thomas Defler says Post author

    RE: Miguel

    That is a good question and one that I cannot answer. Areas nearby have been sprayed with herbicides, but I am not sure how active the program has been in southern Caquetá. It would not be surprising inasmuch as coca leaf is a common crop in the region.

    As far as the patchy distribution, species of this genus often have a sort of patchy occurence, perhaps they are sensitive to certain types of habitats. But they are able to exist in small patches and disturbed vegetation, which is certainly a description of this part of Caquetá.

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