An endangered Old World monkey species found in only two sites in Tanzania is in danger of being poached and eaten into extinction, researchers from the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) and Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Center reported last week.

The Sanje mangabey (Cercocebus sanjei) lives only in the Mwanihana Forest and the Udzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve on the eastern slopes of Tanzania's Udzungwa Mountains. A ground-dwelling species, the monkey spends very little time in trees, making it vulnerable to hunting and traps. It was first observed by Western scientists in 1979.

Mokoro Kitenana, a field technician with the TFCG, told IPP Media that the researchers found many traps in the Udzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve, as well as monkey meat for sale in nearby villages and scant evidence of remaining mangabeys in the forest. Not only does this bode poorly for the monkey itself, it could also affect the economy of the region: "If this is left to continue, the animals will be depleted from the mountains and that would be the end of tourists and foreign researchers visiting the Udzungwa Scarp," he said.

An official with the reserve said that antipoaching patrols are being started.

According to a 2005 assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 40 percent of the 1,300 Sanje mangabeys estimated to exist lived in the Udzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve at the time.

Tanzania's economy is not doing well; it had an August inflation rate of 14.1 percent, according to a recent report from Bloomberg Businessweek, and its currency is at a 45-year low, according to Poaching and wildlife crime are rampant in the country; a 2010 report (pdf) from the Elephant Trade Information System found that a large portion of the ivory smuggled throughout the world by organized crime originated in Tanzania, although the report also praised the country's law enforcement officials for their work blocking smugglers. This August more than 1,000 elephant tusks were seized in Tanzania on their way to Malaysia. Last month another shipment of 695 tusks, which originated in Tanzania, was seized in Malaysia on its way to China.

Photo by Marc Veraart via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license