Almost half of the world’s 634 primate species, or 303 species and subspecies, are now on the brink of extinction, mainly due to habitat destruction, and are in need of urgent conservation measures, according to a report jointly released this week by conservation groups.
Russell Mittermeier, chairman of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said Thursday the crisis of the primates, mankind’s closest living relatives that had been well-adapted to diverse environments, is symbolic of the environmental destruction under way on a global level.
“We want governments to commit to desperately needed biodiversity conservation measures when they gather in Japan in October,” said Mittermeier, referring to the upcoming 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to be held in Nagoya.
“We have the resources to address this crisis, but so far, we have failed to act,” Mittermeier said.
The report, titled “Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008-2010” and compiled by 85 experts from around the world, specifically highlights the plight of 25 species, including the golden-headed langur in Vietnam, whose number has dwindled to only 60 to 70, and northern sportive lemurs in Madagascar, whose number has dropped to less than 100.
Of the 25 most endangered primates, 11 species are in Asia, including the Sumatran orangutan in Indonesia, whose estimated population has rapidly declined to 6,600 due to habitat conversion for agriculture or oil palm plantations, occasional killing as pests or for food, or capturing them for the pet trade.
Besides Asia, six species are from Africa, five from Madagascar and three from Central and South America, according to the report.
While the assessment by the experts is gloomy, conservationists also point to some successful cases of helping the endangered species recover.
In Brazil, the black lion tamarin and the golden lion tamarin were moved up to a listing of Endangered from Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.