The Yew Mountain Center is excited to be part of a small pilot program to introduce a genetically modified raccoon-monkey hybrid into the Appalachian Mountains.
A family of “moncoons” will be released at a remote part of the Yew Mountain Center property and monitored with tracking devices. The new species, Lemur tonto tonto, was created in a remote research facility in the mountains of Madagascar that have a similar climate to the southern Appalachian Mountains.
Researchers from Abriluno University in West Virginia teamed up with a government team of scientists on the small island of Broma, Madagascar. They designed the animal to prefer pests such as the emerald ash borer and woolly hemlock adelgid, invasive insects that are responsible for extensive tree death in this region. In field trials the latest variant, the N-8.2, has also shown to consume more deer ticks, carriers of Lyme’s disease, than opossums consume.
The animals will be released just before midnight, April 1, 2019. This date was chosen to coincide with the waning phase of the moon and the emergence of the animals’ preferred food. This dark, nighttime introduction will protect them from predators and give them a chance to orient to new surroundings in privacy.
While wildlife officials think this introduction will benefit forests in the region, they warn picnickers and hikers to be alert to these new residents of the forest. “As you might imagine if you know anything about monkeys and raccoons, these animals are uber-bandits, said biologist Pulma Legg. “Be sure to keep a close watch on your food and never leave it unattended. And don’t fall for their tricks! I’ve seen one make a sound like a car alarm to create a distraction while its partner made off with an entire pizza.”