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University appoints first primatologist

University appoints first primatologist

A primatologist credited with discovering a new species of monkey has been appointed Lecturer in Biological Anthropology at The University of Auckland.

Dr Jean Boubli, the first primatologist employed by the university, specialises in primate ecology, tropical ecology, conservation biology and the biogeography of the Amazon basin. He will teach courses in primate ecology and anthropology at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

He is carrying out research in one of the least-known areas on the planet - the Pantepui region of the Amazon basin on the Brazil-Venezuela border. While carrying out surveys of the area, Dr Boubli discovered a new species of monkey, the bearded saki monkey (Chiropotes israelita), first publicised in the American Journal of Primatology in 2003. He has also discovered what he believes are new taxa of spider monkey, squirrel monkey and capuchin monkey, yet to be confirmed by molecular analysis.

"Unlike the rest of the Amazon basin, which is mainly flat, this is a mountainous region with incredible biological diversity. It is teeming with little-researched species that have had little or no encounter with humans," says Dr Boubli, who undertook the first ever study of the black uakari monkey, one of the least known primates in the world, in the Amazon's Pico da Neblina National Park.

Dr Boubli is also conducting fieldwork in the severely-degraded Atlantic Coastal Forest (Minas Gerais) in Brazil, where he is researching the ecology of the endangered woolly spider monkey and carrying out conservation work in the region.

"I am working with local landowners to try and restore the natural habitat of the woolly spider monkey by planting more trees," says Dr Boubli. "There is therefore a socio-environmental element to our scientific research."

He plans to carry out his fieldwork in Brazil during the university vacations and says he was attracted to New Zealand by the country's strong conservation ethic and The University of Auckland's reputation for research excellence.

Dr Boubli was previously Millennium Post-doctoral Fellow at the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego; Associate Professor at the Department of Anthropology, National Museum/Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany. He has carried out research in Sumatra, Indonesia; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Panama, and has published widely on primate and tropical ecology.


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