A new primate species in India has been discovered by a team of biologists and wildlife photographers during their bird watching trip to Arunachal Pradesh's Anjaw district.

The White Cheeked Macaque, hitherto unknown in India, was actually spotted by the team last year, but it took almost a year to confirm by the scientific community before the announcement was made on Friday.

The discovery was made by a team of ornithologist and associate professor of geography of Tinsukia College Ranjan Kumar Das, biodiversity conservation organization Aaranyak's head of primatology division Dilip Chetry, Aaranyak's head of wildlife genetics Udayan Borthakur and guide Binanda Hatibarua during a birdwatching trip to the easternmost district of India on March last year.

Das was the first in the team to photograph the White Cheeked Macaque during the trip in Anjaw, bordering Tibet region of China.

"I am excited to be a part of this discovery and to contribute to the understanding of the species through my photography work," Das said.

The team members said that the White Cheeked Macaque differs considerably from all macaque species such as Raesus Macaque, Arunachal Macaque, Tibetan macaque and Assamese macaque. The White Cheeked Macaque has relatively hairless short tail, long and thick hair on its neck and chin-whiskers creating a white cheek, among other characteristics.

Chetry said, "On the basis of our observations, the photographs and experts' comments, we have come to the conclusion that the macaques we observed and photographed in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh is White-cheeked Macaque".

Incidentally, the White-cheeked Macaque was first discovered by Li Cheng and his group from Modog area in South-eastern Tibet in China last year, and the species itself is new to science.

Borthakur said their discovery in Anjaw district has established that White Cheeked Macaque is a new primate species in India.

"Until our discovery this primate species was not known to India. Though we found the species last year, we waited till it is confirmed by experts that the primate species in new to India," Barthakur said. End

Source: April 22, 2016, The Times of India