Worldwide, around 60 per cent of the 500 known primate species are threatened with extinction. Primates live in tropical and subtropical areas and are mainly found in regions of Africa, South America, Madagascar and Asia. However, the extinction of a species must be considered a global problem. An international research team of 31 prominent scientists evaluated the economic, social, cultural, ecological and scientific importance of primates and the global consequences of species extinctions. They call for a strengthening of awareness and a rethinking of the impending extinction events. In order to protect primates, immediate action must be focused on conservation and sustainability. Their report is published on 18 January in the journal Science Advances.
Golden snub-nosed monkey, ring-tailed lemur, Javan slow loris, Azara’s night monkey are just a small sample of the large diversity of primates that still exists to date. They are an essential part of tropical biodiversity, contribute to natural regeneration and thus to the functioning of tropical habitats and are an integral part of many cultures and religions. Worldwide, more than half of all primate species are threatened with extinction. This had already been concluded in 2015 along with the latest edition of ‘Primates in Peril: The world’s 25 most endangered primates’. This report, which is updated every two years, highlights the plight of 25 primate species and is compiled by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission, Bristol Zoological Society, the International Primatological Society, and Conservation International.
In order to evaluate the role of human-induced threats to primate survival, the researchers combined data from the International Red List of the world nature conservation organization International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with data from the United Nations database. This enabled the scientists to establish forecasts and development trends for the next 50 years. For the next 50 years the scientists predict extinction events for many primate species.
The natural habitat of primates is mostly found in regions with high levels of poverty and a lack of education. These conditions lead to the exploitation of natural resources. Deforestation for agricultural land-use has become widespread. Road networks are built for the transportation and the export of goods. Around 76 per cent of the species have lost large parts of their habitat because of agricultural expansion. Another major threat is illegal hunting and the primate trade. In some regions, up to 90 per cent of species are affected.
Urgent action is required
Immediate action in these regions should be aimed at improving health and providing access to education for the local populations. In order to preserve the traditional livelihoods that will contribute to food security and environmental protection, sustainable land-use initiatives must be developed. “The lifestyle and the economy in the industrialized countries contribute to the threat for primates. Many of the resources and products such as mineral resources, beef, palm oil and soya that are destroying the habitats of primates are ultimately consumed in industrialized countries,” says Eckhard W. Heymann, a scientist at the DPZ and one of the co-authors of the study.