OSU ANTHROPOLOGIST'S WORK PART OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC FILM
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Late next week, anthropologist Scott McGraw will board a flight for a trip to Africa in search of something he knows he will not find. McGraw, assistant professor at Ohio State University's Mansfield Campus, is accompanying a film crew from National Geographic Television as part of a documentary on a rare monkey now believed to be extinct.
For the last half-dozen years, McGraw has led an effort to search for the Miss Waldron's red colobus monkey (Procolobus badius waldroni), a primate last seen in 1978 in the forests of Africa's Ivory Coast and Ghana. He has walked the rain forests of West Africa looking for these animals, hired hunters to capture them and even offered rewards to people who said they had heard the monkey's distinctive call.
The announcement of the probable extinction was included in Discover magazine's 50 most important scientific discoveries of the year 2000 released this month.
While the Miss Waldron's red colobus monkey is not a widely known species, it is the first primate believed to have gone extinct in the last two centuries. And according to McGraw and many conservationists, it should serve as a warning to the threat to other remaining mammals in the region.
This particular primate is known to inhabit only the high-canopy forests of that part of Africa and lived in social groups as large as 90 individuals. Their distinctive calls made them easy for naturalists to find in the past.
That's why McGraw hoped that offering hunters in the region a bounty of $100 just for hearing one would uncover any reclusive band of the primates. He also offered double that bounty for the actual sighting. After six years of searching through 19 different areas of forest, no one was able to claim the bounties, leaving McGraw and his colleagues to conclude that the animal is no more.
The anthropologist's discovery - sad as it is -- has captured the interest of the world's media. The current issue of Audubon magazine carries a story on the research. Newsweek, the New York Times, National Public Radio, Canadian Broadcasting, CBS News, CNN and ABC News have all covered the work.
McGraw said, however, that he would have been happier without the notoriety since that would mean the primate was still alive and there would be no extinction to discuss. "Sadly, that does not appear to be the case."