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One in Every Three Primates Now Threatened with Extinction


New Report on 25 Most Endangered Primates Documents Increased Pressures on Mankind’s Closest Living Relative

New evidence of the peril facing the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates, with one in every three now endangered with extinction, is revealed in a new report - The World’s Top 25 Most Endangered Primates-2002 released today by Conservation International (CI) and the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN-The World Conservation Union. Primate species and sub-species classified as "critically endangered" and "endangered" jumped nearly 63 percent from 120 to 195 since the initial report was issued in January 2000.

The report was finalized during a recent gathering of the International Primatological Society, at its 19th Congress in Beijing, China. Asia now accounts for almost 45 percent of the world’s most endangered primates, with 11 listed in the top 25, including six that are new additions. Africa (8), the Neotropics (3) and Madagascar (3) are home to the other primates represented on the list. These include the Sumatran orangutan of Indonesia, the mountain gorilla of Africa, and northern muriqui of Brazil.

"The latest information made available at the International Primatological Society Congress in Beijing highlighted the fact that Asia has now become the world leader in endangered primates," said Conservation International President Russ Mittermeier. "Of particular concern is the situation in Vietnam and China. Indeed, with several primates now numbering only in the dozens or low hundreds of individuals, Vietnam is at risk of undergoing a major primate extinction spasm within the next few years if rapid action is not taken. Fully 20 percent of the top 25 primates are located in Vietnam, with another 16 percent from China and 12 percent from Indonesia."

Twenty-three of the 25 primates are found in the world’s biodiversity hotspots: 25 regions identified by Conservation International which cover a mere 1.4 percent of Earth’s land surface but harbor more than 60 percent of all terrestrial plant and animal diversity.

According to the report, 48 (87 percent) of the 55 critically endangered primates and 124 (89 percent) of the 140 endangered primates are found only in the biodiversity hotspots, for a total of 172 (88 percent) of the current 195. Six of the hotspots are considered the highest priorities for the survival of the world’s most endangered primates: Indo-Burma, Madagascar, Sundaland, the Guinean Forests of West Africa, the Atlantic Forests of Brazil, and the Western Ghats/Sri Lanka.

"It’s important to point out that the Top 25 list is just the tip of the iceberg and a call for more conservation action," said Bill Konstant of Conservation International and co-author of the report. "Essentially, for each primate on it, any one of several other equally threatened species might have been chosen instead. Changing conditions in any of the represented countries can lead to the rapid decline of any of the 195 species threatened with extinction."

Habitat loss due to the clearing of tropical forests for agriculture, timber extraction and the collection of fuel wood continues to be the major factor in the declining number of primates according to the report. However, hunting has been an insidious and major threat, especially in Africa and Asia. Once done mainly for subsistence purposes, it has now taken on a major commercial dimension. Live capture for the pet trade and export for biomedical research have become lesser concerns in recent decades, but still pose a threat to some species.

As flagship species, primates are important to the health of their surrounding ecosystems. Through the dispersal of fruit seeds and other foods they consume, primates help support a wide range of plant and animal life that make up the earth’s forests. Nonhuman primates are our closest living relatives, and their loss is directly linked to the global extinction crisis.

"These 25 are facing a very serious risk of extinction due to the ongoing and rapid loss of their forests and, especially in Asia and Africa, their widespread and devastating exploitation for food and body parts, bizarre decoration, and charms or potions," commented Anthony Rylands of the Species Program at Conservation International’s Center for Applied Biodiversity Science. "The key factor is that all of the species listed as ’critically endangered’ and ’endangered’ are declining dramatically and require urgent measures for their protection."

Although still highly endangered, a number of species have been removed from the list issued in 2000. The golden lion tamarin and the black lion tamarin, for example, have benefited from commendable efforts for their protection by the Brazilian Government. Comprehensive conservation and management programs are in place for each - that for the black lion tamarin run by the NGO IPÊ-Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas in collaboration with the Wildlife Preservation Trust, Philadelphia, and that for the golden lion tamarin by the Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado (AMLD) in collaboration with the National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution.

The top 25 most endangered primates, and the regions where they are found, are:

Greater Bamboo Lemur (Hapalemur simus), Madagascar

Perrier’s Sifaka (Propithecus perrieri), Madagascar

Silky Sifaka (Propithecus candidus), Madagascar

Black-faced Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus caissara), Brazil

Buff-headed Capuchin (Cebus xanthosternos), Brazil

Northern Muriqui (Brachyteles hypoxanthus), Brazil

Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus (Procolobus badius waldroni), Côte d’Ivoire

Roloway Guenon (Cercopithecus diana roloway) and White-naped Mangabey (Cercocebus atys lunulatus), Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire

Tana River Mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus galeritus) and Tana River Red Colobus (Procolobus rufomitratus), Kenya

Sanje Mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus sanjei), Tanzania

Natuna Banded Leaf Monkey (Presbytis natunae), Indonesia

Pig-tailed Snub-nosed Monkey or "Simakobu" (Simias concolor), Indonesia

Delacour’s Langur (Trachypithecus delacouri), Vietnam

Golden-headed Langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus), Vietnam

White-headed Langur (Trachypithecus leucocephalus), China

Gray-shanked Douc (Pygathrix nemaeus cinerea), Vietnam

Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus), Vietnam

Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti), China

Guizhou Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus brelichi), China

Eastern Black Crested Gibbon (Nomascus nasutus), China and Vietnam

Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda

Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli), Nigeria and Cameroon

Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii), Indonesia

Pamela Moyer | EurekAlert!

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