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.”

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments