December 5, 2008—No, these monkeys haven't gone ape for plastic surgery.
The strange-looking Tonkin snub-nosed monkey, only found in two Vietnamese provinces, naturally has a narrow, upturned nose and full, pink lips.
Until recently, scientists believed there were just 200 of the animals, which are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.
Habitat loss, as well as bush meat hunting and demand for parts of the animal in traditional medicine, has pushed it to near-oblivion.
But when villagers in Vietnam's Tung Vai Commune along the Chinese border reported monkey sightings, a team of biologists from Fauna and Flora International (FFI) went looking for the animals in April 2008.
The explorers spotted 15 to 20 snub-nosed monkeys (above, one of the adults), including three infants, and it's likely more groups have yet to be discovered, they said.
(Related photo: "Rare Monkeys Spotted in Vietnam" [July 3, 2007].)
Conservation biologist Le Khac Quyet, an FFI expert on the species, was "overjoyed" at the recent discovery.
"There is still time to save this unique species," he said in a statement.
"But with 200 or so left and threats still strong, we need to act now."