New "snub-nosed" monkey species discovered, killed, eaten

Photograph: Ngwe Lwin via National Geographic.
Killed for food, an R. strykeri monkey is displayed in Myanmar in early 2010.

The only scientifically observed specimen of a newly discovered monkey species in Myanmar (Burma) was killed by local hunters by the time researchers found it. Shortly thereafter, it was eaten.

This species of monkey in fact so snub-nosed that it is said to sneeze uncontrollably when it rains. But "Snubby" has far greater problems than the sniffles.

Local demand for monkey flesh as a food source is one of many reasons the species is endangered; habitat destruction by Chinese logging companies is a big threat, which in turn leads to more hunting: no forest means fewer barriers to tracking and killing these beautiful, vulnerable beasts.

Read more here at National Geographic News.

(via Submitterator, thanks, Ted and Marilyn Terrell)


  1. if there is only 1 specimen what makes it a new species? vs say a mutation of an existing species?

    new species means there are others out there… go find them.

  2. I’d normally have serious qualms about eating a monkey, though I’m fine with eating most animals. However, heartrending poverty is so endemic in Burma, and the government so evil, that I really can’t begrudge my fellow homo sapiens a meal wherever they happen to find one.

      1. I can begruge them. How about moving somewhere else? Here is hoping they starve.

        Yeah really, why don’t they just jump in the mini van and hop on the highway, crushing poverty and police state be damned.

        C’mon dum dum.

  3. The most tragic thing for me is that given its respiratory issues, we will likely never be able to teach this species of monkey to smoke.

  4. I normally wouldn’t eat an animal, but there’s something delicious about an animal with Micheal Jackson’s nose.

  5. “Generally preferring bear meat, the local hunters don’t usually target the snub-nosed monkey, Momberg said. But “when a hunter comes across a monkey and there’s nothing more delicious, he will shoot it.”

    Looks like it’s either eating monkeys or starving. Pretty sure I’d choose the prior.

  6. I am flabbergasted by the snub nose! How/why did they evolve (ahh scary word!) that way especially in a tropical climate with a hefty rainy season?

    It’s sad but it seems like the snub nosers were meant for extinction. Everything about their environment and physiology lead to disaster. IT BLOWS MY MIND!

  7. Hi, Ted from Nat Geo News here. Thanks for the comments about the impulses behind the eating of these animals. We’ve already asked the researcher for more info as to whether the hunters are under food pressure. Will let you know when (if) we get some clarification on that. And Xeni, thanks for the post — just to nerd out, though, technically the headline should be “killed, discovered, eaten.”

    1. That’s what I thought. Just from reading the title. Makes more sense. The person who discovered it is unlikely to kill it. And the person who killed in is unlikely to have known it is a new species.

      1. Some discovered the monkey, and then others discovered that the monkey was not poisonous to eat.

        As to poor people eating animals:

        “Despite its popularity, the zoo was a frequent target during the depths of the Great Depression. Activists complained that while Detroit starved, idle animals lived in luxury. Some threatened that the people of Detroit might be eating the swans and monkeys before 1931 ended.”

        From The Detroit News:

        IIRC, some American zoos during the Great Depression actually did have to slaughter their animals to feed the hungry.

        1. Hmmm…from the article I linked to above, it seems that I have more in common with chimps than I had thought:

          “…the media reported on director Millen’s remedy for the chimps’ many winter colds — “carefully measured doses of 20 year old cognac.””

          Why, that works for me too!

          So… no more eating chimps for me!

  8. I really love (read: hate) these kinds of stories that inevitably mix environmentalism/animal rights/poverty/class and so on. There just seems to be no good answer. You say one thing and someone counters it, and quite often they are correct.

    But that photo is truly upsetting. I wish I hadn’t seen it.

  9. At least the little guy gets to spend the rest of eternity flicking off humans in the first widely circulated photo of his species.

  10. Now which would go best with this, the red or the white wine?

    PS: ‘To snub’ is a useful verb – in action, frequently shown by an upturned nose.

    1. Now which would go best with this, the red or the white wine?

      Not sure, but the snob-nosed monkey pairs well with a Cheval Blanc 1947.

    2. I’m not sure about which wine is better suited(though I’m leaning towards a pinot noir) but I can tell you that San Miguel Beer goes quite nicely with grilled monkey.

      1. San Miguel goes with anything.

        As a vegetarian I’d like to smugly point to the hypocrisy of meat eaters being selectively concerned for life.

        But let’s be honest, even as a vegetarian I am complicit in the extinction of thousands of species, both through the farming methods used to produce my food as well as my general participation in our industrialised society.

        Also, if I’m starving and all there is to eat is monkey meat, I’m eating it!

        1. It’s unfortunate that animals are killed for meat, but eating an animal that was raised for meat and would not have been born or had any life at all if it had not been raised for meat is still preferable to eating a wild animal that may be endagered, unless you’re not in a position to have a choice in the matter. I try to avoid buying meat that was raised in bad conditions. Most of the meat I eat comes from bison that were treated well, lived on a pasture, and killed as quickly and painlessly as possible. It falls short of the ideal of being vegetarian but it’s less bad than buying conventional factory farmed meat.

        2. “Also, if I’m starving and all there is to eat is monkey meat, I’m eating it!”

          If ALL there is to eat is monkey meat then you’re not going to survive much longer anyway, so I wouldn’t bother.

          As a fellow vegie I’ve always found that hypothesis very easy to rationalise – meat eater or not, if all you have is meat, you’re dead; especially if there’s no water, in which case you’ll die even faster than if you ate nothing.

          Given the climate where these people live I would assume that fruit and vegetables would grow incredibly well; as well as soya and nuts which would cover any protein concerns.

          They are choosing to eat monkey, they don’t HAVE to. If these people lived in the Antarctic … it’d be a different story.

        3. As a vegetarian I’d like to smugly point to the hypocrisy of meat eaters being selectively concerned for life.

          Most humans (including vegetarians) have a sliding scale of concern for other life forms based on two factors:

          1) Biodiversity (is this thing endangered?)
          2) How much do we have in common with this lifeform? For example:

          immediate family > random human > non-human primate > intelligent mammal > stupid mammal > non-mammal quadruped > fish > plant > benign bacteria > malignant virus.

          (Individual value scales may vary.)

          The difference between vegetarians and meat-eaters, or ordinary people and mass-murderers, is where one draws the line at what they’re willing to have killed in their name.

  11. God damn! That that is one ugly monkey. I might have shot it just out of fear, never mind hunger.

  12. “Good luck getting a similar proclamation from the Pope.”

    Why? It’s already pretty much already happened, hasn’t it, if not quite as succinctly?

    All the specifics I was able to find were more directly related to the big bang and evolution, but there’s this in the Catholic catechism : “Methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things the of the faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are”.

  13. Well its food. If you wanna save those monkeys there should be work done for a more egalitarian economical system so that people could, like us, choose to eat or not eat what they want.

  14. I just read this story on a New Zealand online news source. They didn’t mention it was killed and eaten and they provided an “artist’s impression of the snub-nosed new monkey” as the photo for the story. I was wondering why they had to make an artists impression of what the monkey looked like. Now I know.

  15. So when the aliens come to put us on Trial for crimes against life and nature, I expect this picture to be Exhibit A.

  16. It has a snub-nosed penis too, from the looks of it. That can’t help its chances for replenishing the population.

  17. The other sources i have read – and let’s be honest: national geo is great at color fold outs and prtety pictures but terrible at reporting – have said scientist shave observed quite a few living species.

  18. Any member of the primate family would be very dangerous to eat due to the closeness of the DNA to humans any parasites or virus they have can have a good chance of jumping the species barrier also its to close to cannibalism if they knew how close compared to the rest of the animal kingdom that primates are to humans.

    One theory is that HIV jumped the species barrier from chimps which have a similar disease called the siv. If we did get one killer incurable disease from eat primates maybe we should try and put a taboo out there to stop it from happening again.

  19. You know, on the one hand it blows. On the other hand those folks don;’t exactly look pumped to be skinning then eating a monkey. They look downright bummed. I don’t think they’re doing it because they hate teh monkees!

  20. You might consider referring to the country simply as “Burma” in English. Though there is basically no logic to it, many English-speakers intentionally use “Burma” despite the official English name being “Myanmar”. This is meant to convey the illegitimacy of the unelected military regime controlling the country.


  21. Hagrid,
    This makes us like a parasite? No more than any other species that eats other species to survive, which is like 90 percent of them.

    The fact we have been so successful at it make us a little like a parasite I suppose…

    1. Yeah, but there’s some systemic symbiosis in most predator/prey relationships. We provide benefit to nobody but rats, roaches and raccoons.

      1. “We provide benefit to nobody but rats, roaches and raccoons.”

        So housing, feeding and providing medical attention is not benefiting?

    2. We’re invasive, we spread rapidly, and we crowd out existing flora and fauna…

      That makes us less parasitic, and more like the animal version of weeds :)

      FWIW, I never know what to do about the poverty vs. biodiversity debate either. The macro view is different from the micro view. Humans decision-making skills are not very effective in those contexts. Maybe the singularity will solve the problem for us.

  22. Anon & Hagrid;
    Is there a name, kind of like parasite, but meaning a disease that wipes out it’s host, it’s host’s species, and the ecosystem that they both inhabit? That’s the one i’m looking for here.

    On a related subject: can we see any more direct way to save what’s left of the natural world than population decline? Zero Population Growth would have worked for a while back when i was a kid in the 60s. Now; with the human population being about 7 times the planet’s carrying capacity, ZPG doesn’t even come close to makeing it. And we can’t just blame the poor in the third world like that Burmese couple. It’s us – everywhere. That jerk with the small-dick 4WD truck, his trophy soccer mom wife, and their 2.2 kids buy their baubles at Wall Mart. Wally World gets their plasticrap from China. China logs Burma. So WE killed those monkeys. The more “we” there are, the less nature there is.

  23. Both facets of my conflicted opinion have already been well covered in the comments so far, so rather than redundantly reiterating them, I’ll take this moment to comment on what is probably the least important aspect of this article. Least important, but representative of one of my pet peeves nevertheless: Semantics.

    This species of monkey was not recently “discovered.”

    Locals did that years, possibly centuries ago. It was, however, recently *documented* by the scientific community.

  24. Cows and pigs look they would taste pretty good. Monkeys look like they would taste very bad. Plus there are a lot fewer of them.

    I’d rather see them eating livestock that was raised to be eaten and killed as painlessly as possible if that option is open to them.

  25. How do we know that it is not just a known variant, with its nose bitten off? Monkeys tend to go for the face and jaws in battle.

  26. First of all: that is a horrible scary ugly monkey and I wish it had never been discovered.

    But nor do I wish them to be eaten up: ”Alas Stellar sea cow, we hardly knew ye. . .”

    We as such successful and fecund humans are indeed to blame for much if not most of the Natural world’s decline: but when it comes down to humanity vs. (natural) diversity: we eat what we can when the going gets tough.

    If my people were starving: I would butcher Bambi Wilbur Koko Flipper AND Mr Ed to keep them alive.

  27. Until the lion writes his own story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

    – Old African proverb

  28. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I came from there and have traveled extensively to those isolated areas, from first-hand account, I can say without any reservation that how difficult it is for people from there, to put something on their plate. Jobs are scarce as land owners don’t usually hire people as they don’t make enough profit because of military forces them to sell certain quantity of their crop at much lower price, for military’s ration, than market price. When they do hire people for some reason – such as because of being ill or having no man in household, they can only afford to pay meager wages or food as exchange. On top of that, they are always worrying about troops showing up at their houses for force labor without getting paid a penny. It’s easy to condemn from here, living in developed nations; but, when you yourself face with the same dire situation, I doubt anyone could ignore their stomach’s growl.

  29. I’m in conflict about this, but after thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that these folks, living in the condition they do, can and should eat anything they can get their hands on (modulo taboos) although I would worry about monkey crossover diseases. That being said, the Age of Post-Scarcity can’t come soon enough.

    Also, damn but that’s one frikkin ugly monkey.

  30. i do wonder if this is how HIV ended up as a human disease.

    As for the earlier comment about moving, good luck with that. First of the people running the place may not want you to leave. Second, the place your going to don’t want you. And it is highly likely that if you show up at a official border crossing they will send you straight back. End result, smuggling by expensive and dangerous routes. And at the first sign of trouble, the smuggler will up and leave you wherever your located. Even if it is in the middle of the ocean, in a leaky boat.

  31. As a vegetarian I’d like to smugly point to the hypocrisy of meat eaters being selectively concerned for life.

    Somehow I bet even you feel more concerned about a rare species going extinct then a common rat get run over in an alley. Just a guess….

  32. Veganism is a wonderful luxury that nearly all residents of burma are unable to even attempt without dying of malnutrition. Please think before you say something stupid (like “how could they do that”- easy answer, they’ll have no food if they don’t).

    I know this is ‘contemptible human madness’ that is ‘robbing the world of our endangered species’, but this is small potatoes. I’ve personally been served bees, anteaters, cats, bamboo rats (also considered extinct: rediscovered several years ago in laos), various types of snake (including cobra), cat, dog, and a variety of types of deer, fowl, and boar. I know people who have personally had to eat elephant, tiger, and other less savory animals just to survive. they kill the animal and sell the parts they can- usually to be made into chinese medicine- and then they eat the rest.

    If you want to be mad at anybody, be mad at the thousands of chinese doctors who, unable to discover a sure-fire way to give a fat emperor an erection, opted instead to tell him to eat the penises of every exotic animal that could be found for him.

      1. The first paragraph in your link seemed to answer the ‘must they?’ question.

        [quote]Agriculture, which includes crop production, hunting, fishing, and forestry, is the mainstay of the Burma economy. This sector is responsible for much of the income and employment in the country. About 60 percent of the GDP comes from agriculture, and as much as 65 percent of the labor force is employed in this sector alone. [b]Burma produces enough food to feed its entire population. [u]In the absence of purchasing power, however, many people go hungry. Further, about a third of the rural households do not have any land or livestock. Only half of the arable 45 million acres is under cultivation.[/b][/u][/quote]

        About the wine, it’s up in the air but I’d say a sauvignon blanc is a safe bet for a white (avoid chardonnay) or cabernet sauvignon or even something like a nice dry chianti would be a good bet for a red.

  33. Hi I’m the ‘smug’ vegetarian!

    My point is that while I do choose to not eat meat for moral reasons, as far as bio-diversity goes, being a part of western industrialised society is far more damaging than killing a monkey in the rain forest for food. The industrilaised age is a major extinction event in the bio-history of the earth. This includes food production, resource extraction and refinement and of course the various pollutants that are the product of our lifestyle.

    As a vegetarian, I’m only marginally ‘better’ than a meat eater wrt my share in our collective guilt.

    So if bio-diversity is one of the primary factors in the sliding scale of concern for life, as one poster mentioned, we’re doing a lousy job of being concerned for life.

    People lucky enough to be able to post in forums and blogs such as this one are probably contributing to the loss of bio-diversity in a greater fashion than poor people in the forest eating monkey meat every now and then.

    This would be especially so if your other measure for concern for life is how similar it is to our own, and thus you eat a lot of fish.

    There are human societies that, due to environmental factors, eat/ate meat as their primary basis of nourishment. Some Inuit and some Indigenous Australian societies come to mind immediately. Sure there is some diversity, but without kangaroos, goanas and grubs people in the Great Western Desert wouldn’t have survived for however long they have (probably longer than western civilisation has been around). So it is possible to be in an environment where deciding to eat meat and deciding to die are your two options.

    In fact, I once read that Tibetan Buddhists are morally and philosophically vegetarians, but due to practical environmental concerns are meat eaters (I’m not sure how true that is though).

    I don’t really see how eating animals that have been bred specifically by humans for eating is anymore morally sound than eating wild animals. Indeed i can see reasons why it is not so, even for ‘well treated’ bison.

    Once again, although I’d like to be smug, my own culpability should preclude or at least mitigate feelings of smugness in any honest analysis.

  34. It is disengenous and arrogant to condemn the hungry for killing animals for food. when the choice come down to moneys in the trees or staving children on the ground, things begin to look very dim for monkeys.

    The affluent have always ridculed the poor for thier food options, think of the poor southerns forced to eat opossum or racoon(or squrill), while they feat on farm fresh quail eggs at some 5 dtar resturant.

    The coaceloth was first “rediscovered” in a fish market, wheree it was know as a food staple. people eat what is avaialble, and if your very poor, you eat monkeys if there are any around

Comments are closed.