This monkey has never been photographed before. Until now.

This is a picture of a monkey that has never been photographed before. Ever.


It was taken by primatologist Lieven Devreese, who, together with his colleague Gaël Elie Gnondo Gobolo, were the first to definitively document the existence of Bouvier's red colobus.


Which is pretty ridiculously cool.

I spoke with Devreese via email and congratulated him on finally discovering the elusive red colobus.

He quickly and humbly corrected me.

"It is one of the 17 species of red colobus, but probably the most neglected one. Some conservationists considered that the species might have been extinct. So that's why I wanted to look for them."

Devreese and Gobolo traveled to the Republic of the Congo in Central Africa in February 2015 to conduct the search.

You know. Just two guys. Looking for a monkey that might or might not exist.

Once on the ground, they met up with local guides who took them into swamp forests along the Bokiba River in the Ntokou-Pikounda National Park, where the monkey was rumored to live.

Swamp forests: pretty much what you'd expect.

"From the start it was clear that the local people know them," Devreese said, "But because of the swampy terrain and because of hunting, it was not easy to find them in the forest."

They searched for five days. On the last day of the expedition, Devreese was preparing to pack up when several members of the team reported that they had spotted a small group of monkeys up in the trees. The group walked for an hour until they heard a promising sound. So they crept closer...

...and boom!



Monkeys.

Since no one had ever really even seen Bouvier's red colobus before, its decline is a bit of a mystery. Some of it, undoubtedly, is due to good ol' habitat destruction and humans being jerks more generally. But according to Devreese, much of the reason the species is disappearing comes down to one word ... that is made up of two words:

Bushmeat.

This is a steak. But imagine a monkey steak.

Turns out, people eat these monkeys.

It's an extraordinarily tricky issue. On the one hand, many contend that hunting local wildlife, including primates, is tradition that stretches back many hundreds of years in some Central African communities, and outsiders should, respectfully, butt the heck out.

"As people from the western world I don't think it is appropriate to prohibit the local small-scale hunting which the people living there have been doing for centuries."

On the other hand, some conservationists argue that bushmeat hunting destroys ecosystems and drives already-threatened species to extinction.

They're not mutually exclusive arguments by any means. But Devreese takes a longer view.

"As people from the western world I don't think it is appropriate to prohibit the local small-scale hunting which the people living there have been doing for centuries," Devreese explained to me. "Hunting is really part of their culture and they depend on the forest for their animal protein intake. But [in the past few decades,] the scale of this hunting has changed. It has become a commercial trade, so now people shoot as much as they can to make money."

And it gets even more complicated. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the primary reason some members of Central and West African communities hunt bushmeat is food insecurity.

It's a two-pronged problem that needs to be addressed two-prongedly.

Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo — a hub of the commercial bushmeat trade.

Helping poachers find alternate sources of income is absolutely crucial to limiting the production of commercial bushmeat. And educating potential consumers about the health risks of eating improperly prepared primate meat (HIV and Ebola are transmitted this way), could lead to a decrease in demand.

Hunting bushmeat for cultural reasons shouldn't be outlawed. And some folks in Central Africa eat bushmeat because they have to, you know, eat. But getting clean water and alternate, sustainable food sources to them could help cut down on hunting.

It's not going to be super easy to make all that happen overnight. But hey. Why not try?

The monkeys would really appreciate it.

Keep on rocking, critically endangered monkeys. You do you.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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