Nepali Assamese monkeys may be a separate species

Kathmandu, November 20

In the fifth Asian Primate Symposium held in Sri Lanka from 17 to 22 October this year, eminent primatologists have agreed that the Nepali Assamese monkeys may be a separate species from Assamese monkeys found elsewhere.

Primatologist and wildlife expert Dr Mukesh Kumar Chalise, one of the participants from Nepal, had presented a detailed report for the symposium.

The Assam macaque (Macaque assamensis), more commonly called the Assamese monkey, is a macaque of the Old World monkey family listed as Near Threatened by IUCN since 2008. Assamese monkeys generally live at a height of around 600 metres to 1800 metres from the sea level, and have a yellowish-grey to dark-brown fur.

“But the Assamese monkeys in Nepal live around 150 metres to over 2500 metres from sea level, and have white fur around their necks and face and varies greatly from that of other Assamese monkeys in other parts of the world,” Dr Chalise said.

He added “Such variation in coloration and distribution for Assamese monkeys have not been recorded in any part of the world. Primatologists must therefore explore the possibility that the Assamese monkeys in Nepal are a separate species and continue research on the matter.”

Scientists have now started genetic analysis of the Nepali Assamese monkeys . In Nepal, the Assamese monkey is found in Chatara of Koshi region, which is 150 metres above sea level, in Bridim of Rasuwa, which is around 2528 metres above sea level and in Khayokot of Darchula, around 2500 metres above sea level.

Dr Chalise said “The body and facial coloration for the Nepali Assamese monkeys also differ in males and females from what is so far described for the population of this species.

However, further taxonomic investigation is needed before confirming that they are a separate species.”

Dr Chalise and his team members have been researching on the Nepali Assamese monkeys since 1997.

A genetic analysis of the Nepali Assamese monkeys will be of great significance in understanding the evolution and dispersal of these macaques along the Himalayan foothills.