The world’s forests are disappearing, and so are mankind’s closest living relatives.
Cutting and burning tropical forests not only contributes to climate change, but also destroys the last remaining habitat of apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates, according to a new report.
Titled Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates—2006–2008, the report by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and the International Primatological Society in collaboration with Conservation International (CI) warns that extinctions are imminent.
Miss Waldron’s red colobus of Ivory Coast and Ghana already is feared extinct, while the golden-headed langur of Vietnam and China’s Hainan gibbon number only in the dozens. Overall, 114 of the world’s 394 primate species – 29 percent – are classified as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List.
“A single football stadium, and a small one at that, could hold all the surviving primates listed in this report,” observes CI President Russell A. Mittermeier.
The new list follows similar assessments in 2000, 2002 and 2004. Eight members of the latest list, including the Sumatran orangutan of Indonesia and the Cross River gorilla of Cameroon and Nigeria, are “four-time losers” that also appeared on the previous editions. Six other primates are on the list for the first time, including a recently discovered Indonesian tarsier. By region, the list includes 11 primates from Asia, seven from Africa, four from Madagascar, and three from South America.
While hunting and illegal wildlife trade threaten primates, habitat loss due to the clearing of tropical forests is the major cause of their declining numbers. Tropical deforestation also emits at least 20 percent of total greenhouse gases that cause climate change, which is more than all the world’s cars, trucks, trains and airplanes combined.
“By protecting the world’s remaining tropical forests,” Mittermeier says, “we save primates and other endangered species while helping prevent climate change.”