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Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:59 UK
The sneezing monkeys of Myanmar
Reconstruction of Myanmar snub-nosed monkey (copyright  Dr Thomas Geissmann)
Reconstruction of Myanmar snub-nosed monkey

A new species of snub-nosed monkey has been discovered living in the forests of northern Burma.

Scientists working for Cambridge-based Fauna and Flora International made the discovery as part of the Myanmar Primate Conservation Program.

The monkeys' characteristics differ from other known snub-nosed species.

They have black fur, prominent lips and wide upturned nostrils which fill with water when it rains, causing the monkeys to sneeze.

Fauna and Flora International estimates that there are fewer than 300 of these monkeys in the wild.

As such, they are globally classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria for the level of threat of extinction.

Logging trucks in Burma
The monkeys' habitat is threatened by the country's logging industry

Other species of snub-nosed monkey are found in parts of China and Vietnam but until now there had been no reports of the animals in Burma.

All species of snub-nosed monkey are classified as endangered.

Upturned face

The team of conservationists began looking for the animals after hunters reported seeing a monkey unlike anything else in the area.

In the local dialect the monkey is referred to as mey nwoah, meaning monkey with an upturned face.

Conservationists, however, have named it Rhinopithecus strykeri.

Rhinopithecus refers to monkeys of the snub-nosed genus. Strykeri is the name of one of the project's supporters.

Scientists working on the Primate Conservation Programme were told by local people that the monkeys were easy to find, because whenever it was raining, the water would get up their noses and they could be heard sneezing.

Consequently, the monkeys spend rainy days sitting with their heads tucked between their knees to avoid this.

[Myanmar is the official name for Burma]




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