Hyderabad: Mankind’s closest living relatives, the apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates, are on the brink of extinction and in need of urgent conservation measures, according to a report.
These species are in danger of becoming extinct because of destruction of tropical forests, illegal wildlife trade and commercial bush meat hunting, said a report ‘Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2012-2014’, released at the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity COP11 being held here.
The report was released by International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Primate Specialist Group.
The list features nine endangered primate species from Asia, six from Madagascar, five from Africa and five from the Neotropics.
Madagascar tops the list with six of the 25 most endangered species. Vietnam has five, Indonesia three, Brazil two, and China, Colombia, C’te d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Venezuela each have one.
According to Zoo Outreach Organisation executive secretary Sanjay Molur, India has 21 species and 43 subspecies of primates and seven of them are endangered, which are mostly located in north eastern India.
“Compared to Vietnam and Madagascar, India is in a comfortable position. India is better in terms of protecting the primates. Most of the Indian species face the problem of deforestation. We consider monkey as God and tend to feed them. The situation also endangers them as human-primate conflict widens,” Molur said.
The list of the world’s 25 most endangered primates has been drawn up by primatologists working in the field who have first-hand knowledge of the causes of threats to primates.
Primates are our closest living relatives and probably the best flagship species for tropical rain forests, since more than 90 per cent of all known primates occur in this endangered biome, said Russell Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) Primate Specialist Group and president of Conservation International.
“We continue to discover new species every year since 2000. Primates are increasingly becoming a major ecotourism attraction, and primate-watching is growing in interest and serving as a key source of livelihood in many local communities living around protected areas in which these species occur,” Mittermeier said.
Primates often serve as seed dispersers and help to maintain forest diversity. It is increasingly being recognised that forests make a major contribution in terms of ecosystem services for people, providing drinking water, food and medicines.
Despite the gloomy assessment, conservationists point to the success in helping targeted species recover.
Due to the efforts of dedicated primate conservationists and underpinned by considerable public and media interest, the world has not lost a single primate species to extinction in the 20th century, and no primate is yet to be declared extinct in the 21st century either, although some are very close to total extirpation, the report said.