Back in March, an expedition to the Congo (Brazzaville) announced that they had spotted the Bouvier’s red colobus and on April 16th they followed that up with the first photo ever taken of this species in the wild. That’s the picture at the top of the story.
The IUCN classified the Bouvier’s as critically endangered and noted they were possibly extinct. There had been no confirmed sightings of the animals since the 1970’s and the species was only known from three museum specimens that are around 100 years old. It’s exact position in the colobus family tree is a bit unclear, given the paucity of information, but they are currently regarded as a full-fledged species.
In December of last year, primatologist Leiven Devreese launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund an expedition to see if they could track down this elusive monkey and confirm that it still exists. Thanks to 55 backers, he was able to head to the Congo in January and spend three months there seeking out the Bouvier’s. While I certainly enjoy tales of species seemingly coming back from the dead, the crowdfunding aspect of this story is what excites me and made me want to comment on it.
While crowdsourcing won’t be replacing the big money coming from governments, foundations and the major non-profits, it has amazing potential to democratize and expand scientific research. It can make the general public excited and involved in science in a much more hands-on way than just paying their taxes or sending a donation to a charity. And it’s a great way for modest projects like this, which only needed $2,500, to get funded versus having to wade through the traditional methods and compete against big, important projects.