White-Cheeked Macaque Discovered in India

CC BY-SA 3.0 / Cheng Li / White-cheeked macaqueWhite-cheeked macaque
White-cheeked macaque - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.02.2022
While the species was first discovered in China in 2015, they were not known to inhabit India. The new discovery puts the number of all mammal species in the South Asian country at 438.
Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered a new mammal species in the country — the white-cheeked macaque.
Bearing distinct white cheeks, long and thick hair on the neck, and a longer tail than other macaque species, the white-cheeked macaques were spotted barely 200 km from where they were first found in China — in Modog County in Southeastern Tibet.
© Photo : Twitter/@KanishkSamotaWhite-cheeked macaque species
White-cheeked macaque species - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.02.2022
White-cheeked macaque species
The discovery turned out to be a big surprise for the scientists who were tracking the Red Panda and the Arunachal macaque in the eastern Himalayas.
ZSI scientist Dr Mukesh Thakur, who authored the study published in the journal Animal Gene, said: "The discovery was entirely accidental. We weren't looking for the white-cheeked macaque".

"One of my students, Avijit Ghosh, was tracking the Arunachal macaque that we have been studying. He collected faecal and skin samples of the macaque and when we carried out DNA sequencing at the ZSI lab, expecting it to be the Arunachal macaque, we realised it was actually the white-cheeked macaque", Thakur told the English daily Indian Express.

The scientists also discovered a juvenile white-cheeked macaque captured and held in the house of a local tribal villager inhabiting the Anjaw region.
The ZSI scientists had received a grant of INR 100 Million ($1.33 million) to research and study the biodiversity of the Himalayas and large threatened species in the region.
Calling the discovery in both China and India "breakthrough discoveries", Thakur shared that "it is very rare nowadays to discover new mammal species".

"As taxonomy scientists, we do describe new species of smaller animals, amphibians, and insects. But large animals are very rare", Thakur said.

The scientists found that both the Arunachal macaque as well as the white-cheeked macaque exist in the same biodiversity in the eastern Himalayas.
Thakur feels that the white-cheeked macaque is a threatened species that requires immediate attention and protection.
The Zoological Survey of India is now carrying out testing and camera trapping of the animal.
"The discovery will also lay the foundation of the species not only being included in the wildlife list but also being covered by the Wildlife Protection Act of India, which presently doesn't cover it simply because we didn't know it existed in India", Thakur said.
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