Threats to Primates Are Escalating
By Cat Lazaroff
WASHINGTON, DC, October 8, 2002 (ENS) - One in every three of the world's apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates are now threatened with extinction, warns a new report by international conservation groups. The report notes that primate species and subspecies classified as endangered or critically endangered has jumped by almost 63 percent - from 120 to 195 - since the last version of the report was issued in January 2000.
Asia now accounts for almost 45 percent of the world's most endangered primates, the report shows, with 11 listed in the top 25, including six that are new additions. Africa has eight primates on the list, the Neotropics hosts three endangered primates, and Madagascar is home to the final three primates represented on the list.
"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.
Twenty-three of the 25 primates are found in the world's biodiversity hotspots: 25 regions identified by Conservation International which cover just 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 of the 55 critically endangered primates - 87 percent - and 124 of the 140 endangered primates - 89 percent - are found only in the biodiversity hotspots. Six of the hotspots are considered the highest priorities for the survival of the world's most endangered primates, including Indo-Burma, Madagascar, Sundaland, the Guinean Forests of West Africa, the Atlantic Forests of Brazil, and the Western Ghats/Sri Lanka.
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.
While hunting was 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.
The loss of nonhuman primates is directly linked to the global extinction crisis, the report's authors warn.
"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," noted Anthony Rylands of the species program at Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS). "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."
The top 25 most endangered primates, sorted by the regions where they are found, are:
China and Vietnam
Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana
Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda
Nigeria and Cameroon
To read the full report, click here.