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The Popa langur (Trachypithecus popa)

Today’s news featured a story which I wasn’t expecting at all in 2022–a new species of primate has been identified in the Mekong region! Actually the new langur was discovered in 2020 (when it was duly reported by the BBC) but the news did not make it to the World Wildlife Fund’s list of newly discovered species until now thanks to circumstances of the wider world. Indeed, the endearing Popa langur was not alone: there were 224 newly discovered species on the list released by the conservation group. The list highlights the need to protect biodiversity in the Mekong region (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam) where new species are still being discovered. Ferrebeekeeper has previously posted about the saola and iridescent snake for similar reasons (you should look at those posts since they rhapsodize about the mysterious hinterlands of Indochina, which are home to all sorts of mysterious and compelling creatures). Speaking of new snakes, this year’s WWF report also included a bright orange snake that lives on slugs!

The new langur species was identified by whiskers which point forward and by broad white circles around its clever eyes…oh and by DNA (in fact the species was originally discovered and collected in the 19th century, but nobody properly identified the bones at Britain’s Natural History Museum as belonging to a new monkey species until now). Unfortunately this “new” primate is already in pretty deep trouble and scientists estimate the total population to be at 200-300 individuals, most of whom seem to live near Myanmar’s dormant Popa Volcano (an otherworldly location pictured immediately below).

Mount Popa also features a fetching monastery

It is easy to wring our hands about the fate of these amazing new rainforest organisms, since they may well disappear forever…right after we have learned they exist. Myanmar, in particular, is going through a destructive era in the aftermath of the 2021 coup d’etat. Yet the pristine forests of Southeast Asia (along with their ghost monkeys, iridescent snakes, and giant catfish) have lasted this long thanks to their remoteness and to the customs and lifestyles of the people who live there. And the national governments are not universally dedicated to economic extraction over all else (Vietnam in particular is serious about protecting its ecological treasures–like their astonishing giant softshell turtles). The rest of us need to find a way to help out. There are wonders in the Mekong jungle (and I never even told you about the new succulent bamboo species).

ZOOOIDS - Underworld II (Robert Steven Connett, 2009, Acrylic on canvas)

ZOOOIDS – Underworld II (Robert Steven Connett, 2009, Acrylic on canvas)

Here is an amazing painting of fantastic glistening underworld creatures.  I greatly admire the artist, Robert Steven Connett, a self-taught contemporary painter who crafts baroque landscapes of dark lifeforms and gleaming spirit-things.  At their best his works come together to portray life as an interwoven web of symbiotic appetite and need—a phantasmagorical ecosystem of amalgamation and ingestion.   It is as though Giger were a gifted mycologist or invertebrate zoologist.  As far as I can tell, Connett has made few inroads in reality, where art is controlled by a click obsessed with fatuous celebrity and tiresome naval-gazing deconstructionism.  However he has created his own strange markets online (in much the same way that he builds his own imaginary underworld ecosystems).  It almost gives a person hope.

I realize this has been an art-heavy week…but I will make it up to you next week when, in celebration of Halloween, we have a whole week dedicated to a unifying theme of macabre terror.  The Halloween themes of years past–the children of Echidna, the Flowers of the Underworld, even the spiritual and ontological horrors of the undead–raised no eyebrows on the internet, so I am ratcheting up the dreadful violence this year.  Steel yourself for the frightful flesh-cutting terror…uh, and for more art too I guess.

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