Extinction Threat for Primates at Crisis Point

The IUCN has highlighted the plight of the world’s primates in a comprehensive review of all 634 known species. The IUCN is the world’s leading conservation body, funding, equipping and managing conservation scientists and projects, as well as leading on policy development internationally. The recent published review found that almost half of all primates face extinction unless urgent action is taken across the globe.

One of the greatest threats to primates is habitat loss, which is primarily caused by the burning and clearing of forests for global commercial gain. Habitat destruction is particularly a problem in South-East Asia, in part driven by the growing palm oil plantation industry. Hunting of primates for food is also a considerable threat, especially in Central Africa.

President of Conservation International and leading conservation scientist, Russell A. Mittermeier described the ‘chilling indictment’ of primates globally:

“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… …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 quite intact. In many places, primates are quite literally being eaten to extinction.”

Two of the 13 red colobus monkeys could already be extinct; Bouvier’s red colobus and Miss Waldron’s red colobus have not been seen by primatologists for 25 and 30 years respectively.

There is some good news however; increasing conservation efforts have had a positive effect on some primates. For example the black lion tamarin and the golden lion tamarin have been downlisted from critically endangered to endangered, after increased protection efforts and successful reintroduction programmes.

The BES would like to invite members and readers of the blog to comment on this topic.