More than half of the world’s species of primates are on the brink of extinction, according to the latest report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Compiled by more than experts from around the planet, the report also contains a list of the 25 primate species considered to be at the highest risk of extinction, and therefore most in need of urgent conservation action.
The Lac Alaotra bamboo lemur, of which only around 3,000 survive, lives in reed beds surrounding a single lake in Madagascar. Jotaguru/Wikimedia Commons
The report, titled “Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates,” is released every two years and aims to highlight the threats faced globally by primates. The list comprises some well-known species, such as the Sumatran orangutan and Javan slow loris, but also highlights many lesser-known and often more endangered primates. These include the Kashmir grey langur, of which there are currently an unknown number, and the Cat Ba langur, of which there are only around 60 surviving in the forests of Vietnam.
This year’s list includes five primate species from Madagascar, five from Africa, 10 from Asia, and five from Central and South America. How endangered the animals are is not based purely on how many of the primates exist, but also takes into account the level and intensity of the threats they face and general population trends. The main dangers facing the species are fairly predictable: habitat destruction, and hunting for both the food and illegal pet trade.
The Roloway monkey, which is native to the Ivory Coast and Ghana, has experienced a population decline of 80 percent over the last three generations. Hans Hillewaert/Wikimedia Commons
“This research highlights the extent of the danger facing many of the world’s primates,” says Dr Christoph Schwitzer, director of conservation at Bristol Zoological Society, who helped compile the list. “We hope it will focus people’s attention on these lesser known primate species, some of which most people will probably have never heard of, such as the Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur from Madagascar – a species only discovered two years ago – or the Roloway monkey from Ghana and Ivory Coast, which we believe is on the very verge of extinction.”
There are currently 703 recognized species of primates, though this number is frequently growing. In just the last 15 years, researchers have described an impressive 75 new species of primates, many of which are from the island of Madagascar. With only 10 percent of the country's forests still in existence, a significant number of these species require critical support to ensure their long-term survival, something the report is trying to muster by bringing attention to these often overlooked species. You can see which other primates have made the world’s 25 most endangered list here.
Main image: Peter Nijenhuis/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0