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Rare primate species needs habitat help to survive

The population of the critically endangered large primate known as the drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus) has been largely reduced to a few critical habitat areas in Cameroon, according to a recently published study by researchers with the San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research. The study highlights the challenges faced by this species as its living area becomes ever more fragmented by human disturbance. In addition, the report directs conservation efforts towards key areas where the populations continue to survive and thrive.

"The drill is one of Africa's most endangered primates and this is the first publication that analyses drill conservation status in detail across the majority of its range, in Cameroon." said Bethan Morgan, research scientist with the San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research. "We hope this study will provide a stark warningabout the general decline in drill populations while highlighting areas where long-term survival of this species is most likely."

The study, which appeared in a recent issue of the International Journal of Primatology, indicates that as much as 80% of the remaining drill population resides in Cameroon. Of the 52 habitat areas where drill populations were counted, only four (Ebo, Ejagham, Kroup and Nta Ali) received high scores indicating the presence of sustainable populations.

"Although the results of this study cause us a great deal of concern" said Ekwoge Abwe, coauthor of the study and manager of San Diego Zoo Global's Ebo Forest Research Project, "we are encouraged that it highlights the importance of the proposed Ebo National Park where we have been conducting a long-term and ongoing research and conservation program geared towards the protection of primate species and the reduction of the bushmeat practices that directly affect them."

The San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is dedicated to bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction. The Conservancy makes possible the wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) of the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, and international field programs in more than 35 countries.
The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

Christina Simmons | EurekAlert!
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