A photograph of a girl and her pet monkey in an unexplored tropical village has led researchers in the Democratic Republic of Congo to discover a colorful new species of monkey. Though new to science, researchers say the monkey — with its bright blue, red and yellow markings — is a common sight in remote regions of the DCR where it has become part of villagers’ diets.

Called lesula (the scientific name is Cercopithecus lomamiensis), the primate was first brought to the attention of researcher John Hart while sifting through photographs of a 2007 field expedition. One photo portrayed a 13-year-old girl named Georgette standing in a remote village in central DCR. Beside her was a monkey with a naked face, yellow mane, blue backside and bright red marking on its lower back. It was unlike any monkey Hart had ever seen, and it took him five years of careful research to find and identify the monkey as a brand new species.

Hart and his fellow researchers learned lesula is different from other monkey species because of its striking appearance. For example, the males, which are about 125 cm from head to tail, have bright blue backsides. This trait is found in only one other known monkey species, the owl-faced monkey (Cercopithecus hamlyni).

The lesula is typically shy, though the village monkey that prompted further research had become quite accustomed to human interaction. The species usually inhabits the dank rainforest floor where sunlight and people are scant. Since the region where it dwells is largely unexplored, researchers say it’s no wonder it took so long for the monkey to be scientifically known. However, lesula is a common sight for some villagers in remote regions of the DCR. In fact, villagers in the central part of the country are known to feast on lesula for dinner. Now that the monkey has been identified, researchers say the next step is to save it from being hunted by humans for bushmeat.

Featured photo credit: John Hart/PLOS One; secondary photo credit: Gilbert Paluku/PLOS One