Science & Environment

Project to protect rare Burmese monkey gets new funding

Burmese snub-nosed monkey photographed by a camera trap
Image caption Burmese snub-nosed monkey photographed by a camera trap in May 2011

A conservation project to help protect the rare Burmese snub-nosed monkey is one of 33 to get a share of UK Government funding.

The species was photographed for the first time last year.

The project, led by Fauna and Flora International (FFI), will try to establish how many of the monkeys are left and how best to protect them.

The money comes from a long-term scheme called the Darwin Initiative.

The Burmese snub-nosed monkey was described scientifically for the first time in 2010 from a dead specimen collected by a local hunter.

In May 2011 researchers working in northern Burma captured the first pictures of the species in its natural habitat.

A team from FFI, Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (Banca), and People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF) took the images using camera traps.

Conservationists believe numbers have fallen to around 300 but little is known about the monkeys.

Dr Stephen Browne, senior programme manager for the Asia-Pacific region at FFI, said: "That we could be faced with losing a species almost as soon as it is discovered seems almost unthinkable.

"Yet this could very well be what the future holds for the Myanmar (Burmese) snub-nosed monkey unless we take swift and decisive action to conserve it," he told BBC News.

The new funding will pay for fieldwork to find out more about the species including distribution, behaviour and threats. That will involve a community-based monitoring scheme.

Conservationists will use the information to set up an action plan to protect the species.

The project is one of 33 initiatives to share £8.5m of funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The Darwin Initiative was set up 20 years ago to support conservation projects around the world.

Image caption One of the projects will help improve management of the conservation of Tanzania's large carnivores

Prof David Macdonald, who chairs the committee that advises ministers on which schemes to fund said: "The Darwin Initiative is hugely important and lies at the cutting edge of conservation worldwide. Internationally it is respected and valued as Britain's flagship for conservation."

Another scheme that will get funding is a project to manage threats to Tanzania's large carnivores, including lions, leopards and cheetahs.

The world's largest amphibian, the Chinese giant salamander, will also get extra help. Though it is a protected species, the salamander - which can grow to 50kg (110lb) - is threatened by illegal hunting.

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