Cambodian researchers discover large colonies of rare primates

A survey by environmental agency Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has uncovered "surprisingly large" populations of two globally endangered primates in a remote protected area in Cambodia, it said in a press release Friday.

A census by WCS scientists and Cambodian rangers across a 780- square-kilometre area in the remote north-eastern border province of Mondulkiri on the Vietnam border counted 42,000 black-shanked doucs and 2,500 yellow-cheeked crested gibbons, it said.

"The estimate represents the world's largest known populations for both species," WCS said in a press release, adding that total populations of the two threatened species within the surrounding 3,000sq km area may be even larger.

"Prior to this discovery, the largest known populations of the two primate species were believed to live in adjacent Vietnam, where black-shanked doucs and yellow-cheeked crested gibbons number at 600 and 200 respectively. Their total population figures remain unknown."

Doucs, a species of Old World monkey, take their name from the Vietnamese word for monkey and the strikingly marked black-shanked doucs are found only in this patch of Cambodia and Vietnam.

WCS gave the Cambodian government rare praise, saying its commitment to prevent logging in the area had been strong and had helped greatly, but warned that other threats still remained.

"The primates have benefited from a cessation of logging activities, a nation-wide gun confiscation program implemented in the 1990s, and a habitat where there is plenty to eat," WCS said.

"But ... the area still remains at risk from conversion to agro-industrial plantations for crops, including biofuels, and commercial mining.", the dpa reported.

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