Primates in Peril

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on October 26th, 2007

Report: Primates in danger of extinction

Almost a third of all apes, monkeys and other primates are in danger of extinction because of rampant habitat destruction, the commercial sale of their meat and the trade in illegal wildlife, a report released Friday said.

Of the world’s 394 primate species, 114 are classified as threatened with extinction by the World Conservation Union.

The report by Conservation International and the International Primatological Society in Hainan, China, focuses on the plight of the 25 most endangered primates, including China’s Hainan gibbon, of which only 17 remain.

“You could fit all the surviving members of the 25 species in a single football stadium; that’s how few of them remain on Earth today,” said Russell A. Mittermeier, president of Conservation International.

“The situation is worst in Asia, where tropical forest destruction and the hunting and trading of monkeys puts many species at terrible risk,” said Mittermeier, who is also chairman of the World Conservation Union’s Primate Specialist Group, which prepared the report with the International Primatological Society.

The 25 most endangered primates include 11 from Asia, 11 from Africa and three from South and Central America. The list includes well-known primates like the Sumatran orangutan of Indonesia and the Cross River gorilla of Cameroon and Nigeria, as well as lesser known species, such as the greater bamboo lemur from Madagascar.

Six species are in the report for the first time, including a recently discovered Indonesian tarsier that has yet to be formally named and the kipunji from Tanzania, which was discovered in 2003.

“Some of the new species we discover are endangered from the get go,” Mittermeier said. “If you find a new species and it’s living in an area heavily impacted by habitat destruction and hunting, you recognize it’s in trouble.”

Habitat loss due to the clearing of tropical forests for agriculture, logging and fuel wood continues to be the major factor in the declining number of primates, according to the report.

In addition, climate change is altering the habitats of many species, leaving those with small habitat ranges even more vulnerable to extinction, it says.

Hunting for subsistence and commercial purposes is another major threat to primates, especially in Africa and Asia. Capture of live animals for the pet trade also poses a serious threat, particularly in Asia, the report found.

Four primates on the list from Vietnam have been decimated by hunting for their meat and bones, according to Barney Long, a conservation biologist based in Vietnam for the WWF Greater Mekong Program.

“All four species are close to extinction,” Long said of the Delacour’s langur, golden-headed langur, grey-shanked douc and Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. “The key populations have been stabilized. But there needs to be a lot more law enforcement and work to persuade local communities to support conservation for those numbers to increase.”

The news is not all bad.

Nine primates from the last report in 2004 were taken off the list, mostly because of bolstered conservation efforts to save their populations. Among them are the eastern gorilla from Africa, the black-faced lion tamarin and the buffy-headed tufted capuchin from Brazil and the Perrier’s sifaka from Madagascar.

“If you invest in a species in a proper way and do the conservation measures needed, you can reduce risk of extinction,” Mittermeier said. “If we had resources, we would be able to take every one of the species off the list in the next five or 10 years.”Michael Casey
AP Environmental Writer

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

10 Responses to “Primates in Peril”

  1. scotsman responds:

    My god that is a crying shame that is. Conservation is a good plan all the way for the primates in peril I say.

  2. Cryptid Hunt responds:

    whats wrong with people these days? The only reason why half of this world is messed up and destroying habitat and species is because of us humans!

  3. mystery_man responds:

    This is all such a shame. I would like to add one reason for habitat destruction and it is called palm oil. If anyone here does not know what that is, I can tell you that you’ve probably used at least one product containing it today. It is used in a variety of foods, as well as for bio fuels, and others. In many areas of the orangutan’s habitat, there has been heavy development of vast palm oil plantations in order to supply the world’s insatiable demand for palm oil. These plantations require large scale clearing of forest habitats, and the orangutans, not knowing where to go, often venture into the palm plantations to forage for food. Bad move for them it seems, as they are actively destroyed as pests, some of them being beaten to death with clubs and the like. Sometimes the babies are taken and put up for sale. It is an atrocious way to treat one of our closer living relatives. On a related note, a lot of people do not realize that while biofuels help the environment in some ways, they cause great damage in others, one being the clearing of land for crops. As for taking some primates off the list of endangered species, that’s a good start. But the sad thing is that even off the endangered list these primates they are not necessarily at exactly high numbers. It is a triumph, but reducing the threat of extinction and bringing a species to a solid and healthy population are not always the same. We have to keep working at it.

  4. Saint Vitus responds:

    I’ve never heard of the Cross River gorilla or the eastern gorilla, are those just different names for the lowland and mountain gorillas?

  5. mystery_man responds:

    Saint Vitus- There are two species of gorilla. The eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei), and the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla). The Cross river gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) is a subspecies of western gorilla. The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is a subspecies of eastern gorilla. There are four subspecies of the eastern and western gorillas.

  6. elsanto responds:

    I guess it’s just a matter of time before homo sapiens puts itself on the list… at this rate, no small number of us may live to see it…

    Just my two cents.

  7. mystery_man responds:

    Saint Vitus- I should add a few things. The subspecies of the eastern gorilla are the mountain gorilla and the eastern lowland gorilla (AKA Grauer’s gorilla). The subspecies of western gorilla are the Cross river gorilla and the western lowland gorilla. It would be more accurate to say that these are the four subspecies of gorilla currently recognized, but more could come into being with further research and DNA testing. Some primatologists advocate separating the Bwindi population of mountain gorillas, which exhibit some unique characteristics, into a separate subspecies. Taxonomy is a tricky thing and these things change. After all, gorillas were once thought to all belong to only one species. Anyway, hope this answered your question!

  8. cmgrace responds:

    Horrible. I believe your right elsanto, we will be the cause of our own destruction.

  9. Daryl Colyer responds:

    It’s also interesting to note that Russell A. Mittermeier, president of Conservation International, and the gentleman who is quoted most in the article, is extremely open to the existence of the sasquatch; he thinks its existence is possible and plausible.

    Jeff Meldrum has mentioned in conversation before that Mittermeier’s even offered to put a team of his own “jungle rats” out in the North American outback to search for the sasquatch.

  10. bill green responds:

    hey craig- very informative new article about primates. thanks bill green

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