Study warns of looming risk of primate extinctions

January 19, 2017  —  An in-depth review of the global status of primates (Science Advances, Jan. 18, 2017) has revealed that mankind’s closed relatives are in serious trouble.  The study found that about 75% of the 504 non-human primate species have declining populations and about 60% are officially threatened (at risk of extinction).  Habitat loss, especially from agriculture, is the chief problem, with bushmeat hunting and the illegal trade of primates as pets or for body parts being an additional threat.

In a section titled “Why primates matter”, the review points to the social and cultural importance of primates and their ecological importance as part of the food web, as pollinators and seed dispersers, and as animal models for understanding human disease, behavior and evolution.

The authors warn that “global attention is needed immediately to reverse the looming risk of primate extinctions and to attend to human needs in sustainable ways”.   Protected areas remain crucial and should be expanded, while the illegal wildlife trade can be addressed though local and global public education campaigns.  Community-based forests and game ranching and mini-livestock breeding can serve in poverty reduction and reduce demand for bushmeat.

ICFC protects primate populations through its strategic support for private reserves and programs that protect extensive forest ecosystems in the Amazon.  With additional support we could quickly take priority actions to protect primates in Africa and Southeast Asia.  Primates --- gorillas and orangutans, tarsier and lemurs — depend on us for their future.

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