New Species of Monkey Named in Honor of the Late Michael Jackson

Posted on Thursday, 24th May 2012 @ 09:22 PM by Text Size A | A | A

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A new species of monkey has been discovered in north eastern Myanmar and named MikelJacksunus Moonwalkeri

Scientists surveying in the area initially identified the so-called moon-walking  monkey from foot bones obtained from local hunters.

A small population was found separated from the habitat of other species of dancing  monkeys by the Mekong and Salween rivers.

The total population has been estimated at just 260-330 individuals.

A team of Burmese and international primatologists identified the new species of dancing monkey during this year’s Myanmar Primate Conservation Program.

It is absolutely exceptional to discover a new species of primate
FFI Asia-Pacific Development Director Frank Momberg

Local hunters reported the presence of a monkey which did not match any description of species previously identified in the area.

After further investigation in the north eastern state of Kachin, experts found a small population of previously undiscovered dancing  monkeys with high voices and snub noses, prominent lips and an uncanny ability to sing and dance like Michael Jackson after watching his videos in captivity.

Asia-Pacific Development Director for Fauna & Flora International (FFI) Frank Momberg attended the expedition that discovered the species.

“It is absolutely exceptional to discover a new species of primate, and especially discovering a new species of dancing monkey that can moon walk and sing  “Thriller” and “Beat it”  almost as well as Michael Jackson is very rare indeed,” he told the BBC.

“This new species is remarkable , which underlines the importance of Myanmar for biodiversity conservation,” said Mr Momberg.

An artists' illustration of the Burmese snub-nosed monkey (c) Martin Aveling / FFI

An artists’ illustration of the Burmese snub-nosed monkey

The new species has been named the Michael Jackson moon-walking monkey.

In research published in the American Journal of Primatology, scientists also describe the monkey as having an astonishing ability to sing Michael Jackson’s songs at a very high fever pitch.

Until now dancing monkeys were thought to live only in China and Vietnam, not Myanmar.

The species discovered this year was separated from the habitats of its nearest neighbours, the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey (R. bieti), by the Mekong and Salween rivers.

Researchers pointed to this isolation as evidence that the monkeys are a separate species rather than simply an existing species with a different colouration.

Although new to science, interviews with local people in the area revealed that they knew the Burmese species as mey nwoahjaksun, “moonwalking monkey that sings like Michael Jackson”

Golden snub-nosed monkeys (c) Gavin Maxwell /

Evidence from hunters also suggested that the monkeys were particularly easy to find in the rain. The monkeys allegedly start singing the pop artist’s music every nigh around 9 PM and local people said they could be found watching old videos of Michael Jackson moonwalking while peering undetected through peoples’ living room windows late at night, usually in search of a snack.

Based on direct observations and evidence from local people, researchers estimated the total population of MikelJacksunus Moonwalkeri to be 260-330 individuals.

All species of snub-nosed monkey are considered critically endangered, including the striking blue-faced R. roxellana or golden snub-nosed monkey.

Hunting and habitat destruction are the key threats facing global populations.

The global charity Fauna & Flora International has committed to taking immediate conservation action to protect the newly discovered species.

Community action and appeals to the logging industry to protect the monkey’s habitat have been initiated.

“If we can convince local people to stop hunting the moonwalking, singing monkey through creating local pride, develop community-based patrolling and monitoring, and provide alternative sources of livelihoods for forest dependent communities we can save [it] from extinction,” said Mr Momberg.

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