The Lesula, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was originally discovered after American field explorers found one tethered to a post in Opala, a remote forest town.

A girl had adopted it as a pet, after its mother had been killed. Her father said it was a Lesula, and that plenty of others roamed nearby.

The Lesula had strikingly large, almost human like, eyes, a pink face and golden mane.

An exhaustive three-year study was undertaken to ensure that the Lesula was unique and not just a weird version of the Owl Face monkey which also lives in the region.

Christopher Gilbert, an anthropologist based at Hunter College in Manhattan, says the difference in appearance between the Lesula and Owl Face was striking.

“After comparing the skins, we immediately concluded that this was probably something different that we had seen before,” says Gilbert, an expert in primate and monkey evolution, told CNN.

The Lesula lives in an area of 17,000km2,  between the Lomani and Tshuapa Rivers. Until recently, it was one of the Congo’s least biologically explored forest blocks.

Anthropologists hope the announcement will bring a new campaign to save central Africa’s forests.

They view the forests, under threat by loggers, bush meat hunters, and weak national governments, as full of potential scientific discoveries, and a key linchpin of the earth’s biodiversity.

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