Primates 'at risk of extinction'
Nearly half of all the species of monkeys and apes in the world are in danger of extinction with primates as a whole representing one of the most threatened group of mammals today, a study has found.
The latest assessment of man’s closest living relatives has found that 48 per cent of the 634 different kinds of primates could soon die out completely due to factors such as habitat loss and hunting.
Scientists who carried out the study for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) believe that the situation has worsened significantly since the last time a similar investigation of primates was done five years ago.
In some parts of the world the threat to primates has reached crisis proportions. In Vietnam and Cambodia, for instance, about nine out of every 10 species are now listed as either vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered – the three most threatened classifications on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.
“What is happening in south-east Asia is terrifying. To have a group of animals under such a high level of threat is, quite frankly, unlike anything we have recorded among any other group of species to date,” said Jean-Christophe Vie, deputy head of the IUCN’s species programme.
The review was carried out by hundreds of primatologists who assessed factors such as the loss of habitat, total population size or pressures from hunting which could affect a species chances of survival in the coming century.
“We’ve raised concerns for years about primates being in peril, but now we have solid data to show the situation is far more severe than we imagined,” said Russ Mittermeier, president of Conservation International, and a primate specialist on the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission.
“Tropical forest destruction has always been the main cause, but now it appears that hunting is just as serious a threat in some areas, even where the habitat is still intact. In many places, primates are quite literally being eaten to extinction,” Dr Mittermeier said.
Primates include species as small as the tiny mouse lemurs of Madagascar, which can fit inside a teacup, to the large lowland gorilla of western Africa. They also include man’s closest living relative, the chimpanzee, which shares about 98 per cent of its DNA with humans.
Dr Mittermeier said that one in every three primate species is now either endangered or critically endangered compared to about one in five primates classified in these two risk categories before the results of this latest assessment emerged.
“The pressures on them have increased with the big push towards growing monoculture crops, in part for their use as biofuels. The growing of palm oil crops in south-east Asia and soya beans in the Amazon have taken their toll,” Dr Mittermeier said.
“But hunting of primates for bushmeat has also increased. This was a subsistence issue but now it’s almost become a luxury food with a higher price than for chicken or fish, both in African and in south-east Asia,” he said.
Among the most threatened primate species were two of the red colobus monkeys – Bouvier’s red colobus and Miss Waldron’s red colobus, neither of which has been seen by primatologists for the past quarter of a century.
Despite the threats to primates, scientists have since 2000 described 53 new primate species that are new to science, including 40 species from Madagascar. In 2007, researchers discovered a population of greater bamboo lemurs living a wetland site on the island, about 240 miles from the only other known population of the species – bringing the total number of individuals living in the wild to about 140.
The latest report, however, says that there have been success stories, notably the black lion tamarin and the gold lion tamarin of Brazil’s decimated Atlantic Forest, which have been brought back from the edge of extinction, being classified as endangered rather than critically endangered.
Anthony Rylands of the IUCN’s Primate Specialist Group, said: “If you have forests, you can save primates. The work with lion tamarins shows that conserving forest fragments and reforesting to create corridors that connect them is not only vital for primates, but offers the multiple benefits of maintaining healthy ecosystems and water supplies while reducing greenhouse gases emissions that cause climate change.”
Mammoth ivory trade: Should the prehistoric species be protected – to save the elephant?
Solar power: Subsidy cut will stop one million buildings installing rooftop panels
The top 10 weirdest animal mating rituals
Nasa says sea levels have risen faster than thought due to climate change
Climate change: July was the Earth's hottest month on record – while 2015 could be the warmest year, scientists say
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
- 4 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...
£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...