Skull face sighted: First pictures of the snub-nosed monkeys who can't look up when it rains

-(Because all the water runs into their nostrils)

By Richard Shears

Historic first: The Myanmar snub nosed monkey had not been previously been photographed until this group were spotted in the Kachin mountain jungles

A British wildlife photographer has managed to capture the first known picture of the extremely rare snub-nosed monkey of Burma.

The creatures, whose faces resemble skulls, are so rare that they have only ever been seen once before by Western eyes, when the team did not have time to record the meeting.

More commonly, dead bodies, skins and bones are all that is seen of them, usually after they have been hunted by villagers.

The monkey gets its name from its peculiar turned-up nose, which causes problems for it when it rains - for all the water runs up its nostrils.

As a result it constantly sneezes during the monsoon season and in order to avoid the rain keeps its face to the ground as much as possible.

Locals even call it mey nwoah (monkey with an upturned face).

But now Jeremy Holden, who works with Britain's oldest conservation organisation, Fauna and Flora International, has photographed a pair of them looking upwards in colour.

He also spotted them with their young in the remote mountain jungles of Kachin, on the border of Burma and China.

'It's the first time the monkey has been photographed,' said a proud Mr Holden,
He said his expectations had not been high as he set out from his base in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the elusive monkey.

'We were dealing with very tough conditions in a remote and rugged area that contained perhaps fewer than 200 monkeys,' he said today.

Night prowler: The monkeys triggered hidden cameras set up on the Burma-China border

Excited: The pictures by Briton Jeremy Holden have set the scientific community abuzz

'We didn't know where they lived and I didn't hold out much hope of short-term success with this work.'

But then a small group of monkeys walked past the hidden cameras that he had set up to shoot pictures at any sign of movement. What excited the scientists was the discovery that some of the females were carrying babies.

Mr Holden worked with scientists linked to the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association and another group called the People Resources and Conservation Fundation.

'As yet, no scientist has seen a live individual,' said Mr Frank Momberg of Fauna and Flora International.

Mr Ngwe Lin, a Burmese scientist who was with a team that first identified the monkey as a possible new species, said the photos were the the first record of the snub-nosed monkey in its natural habitat.

'It is great to finally have photographs because they show us something about how and where it actually lives,' he said.

Mr Holden originally travelled from the UK to Sumatra, Indonesia, as a photographer in 1994 but it was an encounter with the mysterious Orang Pendek, an ape with a Yeti-like reputation, that changed his life.

His enthusiasm for seeking the world's elusive animals grew - and now, with the 'capture' of the snub-nosed monkey on camera has come one of his greatest rewards.

Now meet Mathilda, the world's newest snake

By Richard Shears

The world's newest snake has menacing-looking yellow and black scales, dull green eyes and two spiky horns. And it's named after a seven-year-old girl.

Matilda's Horned Viper was discovered in a small patch of southwest Tanzania about two years ago and was introduced last month as the world's newest known snake species in an issue of the journal Zootaxa.

Tim Davenport, the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Tanzania, was on the three-person team that discovered the viper.

What's in a name? The Mathilda Horned Viper is the world's newest snake and owes it moniker to the daughter of the British scientist who discovered it

Waiting to strike: the Viper was discovered two years ago in Tanzania but was not officially recognized as a news snake until last month

So it is thanks to his daughter that the snake will always carry the slightly-less-than-fearsome name.

'My daughter, who was five at the time, became fascinated by it and used to love spending time watching it and helping us look after it,' said Davenport.

'We called it Matilda's Viper at that stage... and then the name stuck.'

Only three new vipers have been discovered across Africa the last three decades, making the find rare and important.

The Wildlife Conservation Society is not revealing exactly where the snake lives so that trophy hunters can't hunt it.

Davenport said he is not sure how many live in the wild because snake counts are hard to do. Twelve live in captivity and a breeding plan is being carried out.

Davenport, a Briton who has lived in Tanzania for 12 years, said that while many people fear snakes, most are harmless and help keep rodent numbers down.

Matilda's Horned Viper can grow to 2ft or bigger, he said.

'This particular animal looks fierce and probably is venomous (though bush viper bites are not fatal),' said Davenport.

'However, it is actually very calm animal and not at all aggressive. I have handled one on a number of occasions.'

The Wildlife Conservation Society runs the Bronx Zoo and the Central Park Zoo in New York, and Davenport said it would be a 'great option' to showcase the new horned viper at one of those locations, but that nothing has yet been decided.



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