Mankind’s closest living relatives – the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates – are on the brink of extinction and in need of urgent conservation measures according to Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008–2010.
The report reveals that nearly half of all primate species are now in danger of becoming extinct from destruction of tropical forests, illegal wildlife trade and commercial bushmeat hunting.
The list includes five primate species from Madagascar, six from Africa, 11 from Asia, and three from Central and South America, all of which are the most in need of urgent conservation action.
Compiled by 85 experts from across the world, the report was launched at Bristol Zoo Gardens (on Thursday, February 18), with guests from national and international conservation and research organisations.
Conservationists want to highlight the plight of species such as the golden headed langur (Trachypithecus p. poliocephalus), which is found only on the island of Cat Ba in the Gulf of Tonkin, north-eastern Vietnam, where just 60 to 70 individuals remain.
Similarly, there are thought to be less than 100 individual northern sportive lemurs (Lepilemur septentrionalis) left in Madagascar, and around just 110 eastern black crested gibbons (Nomascus nasutus) in northeastern Vietnam.
The list has been drawn up by primatologists working in the field who have first-hand knowledge of the causes of threats to primates. One of the editors of the report is Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Head of Research at the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation (BCSF), a sister organisation of Bristol Zoo Gardens.
Dr Schwitzer, who is also an advisor on Madagascan primates for the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, contributed the chapter on the critically endangered Sclater’s lemur (also called the blue-eyed black lemur). Dr Schwitzer said: “This report makes for very alarming reading and it underlines the extent of the danger facing many of the world’s primates. We hope it will be effective in drawing attention to the plight of each of the 25 species included. Support and action to help save these species is vital if we are to avoid losing these wonderful animals forever. “
Almost half (48%) of the world’s 634 primate species are classified as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. The main threats are habitat destruction, particularly from the burning and clearing of tropical forests (which results in the release of around 16 percent of the global greenhouse gases causing climate change), the hunting of primates for food, and the illegal wildlife trade.
Dr Russell Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and President of Conservation International, said: “The results from the most recent IUCN assessment of the world’s mammals indicate that the primates are among the most endangered vertebrate groups.
“The purpose of our Top 25 list is to highlight those that are most at risk, to attract the attention of the public, to stimulate national governments to do more, and especially to find the resources to implement desperately needed conservation measures. In particular, we want to encourage governments to commit to desperately needed biodiversity conservation measures when they gather in Japan in October. We have the resources to address this crisis, but so far, we have failed to act. We have chosen Bristol Zoo Gardens to launch this year’s list, the fifth since 2001, because of the great leadership that this institution has taken in primate conservation in some of the world’s highest priority regions.”
Dr Schwitzer added: “This research is a good example of the growing importance of collaboration between the international conservation, research and zoo communities in the protection of species and habitats. At Bristol Zoo Gardens, we will continue our conservation and research with the aim of increasing the effectiveness of the conservation activities, as well as increasing our understanding of these, and other, critically endangered species.”
Despite the gloomy assessment, conservationists point to the success in helping targeted species recover. In Brazil, the black lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysopygus) was down listed to Endangered from Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, as was the golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) in 2003, as a result of three decades of conservation efforts involving numerous institutions, many of which were zoos. Populations of both animals are now well-protected but remain very small, indicating an urgent need for reforestation to provide new habitat for their long-term survival.
Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008–2010 has been compiled by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the International Primatological Society (IPS), in collaboration with Conservation International (CI).
The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates: 2008–2010, by region:
Greater Bamboo Lemur Prolemur simus
Gray-headed Lemur Eulemur cinereiceps
Sclater’s Black Lemur, Blue-Eyed Black Lemur Eulemur flavifrons
Northern sportive lemur Lepilemur septentrionalis
Silky Sifaka Propithecus candidus
Rondo Dwarf Galago Galagoides rondoensis
Roloway Guenon Cercopithecus diana roloway
Tana River Red Colobus Procolobus rufomitratus
Niger Delta Red Colobus Monkey Procolobus epieni
Kipunji Rungwecebus kipunji
Cross River Gorilla Gorilla gorilla diehli
Siau Island Tarsier Tarsius tumpara
Javan Slow Loris Nycticebus javanicus
Simakobu or Pig-Tailed Snub-Nose Langur Simias concolor
Delacour’s Langur Trachypithecus delacouri
Golden-headed Langur or Cat Ba Langur Trachypithecus p. poliocephalus
Western Purple-faced Langur Trachypithecus (Semnopithecus) vetulus nestor
Grey-shanked Douc Monkey Pygathrix cinerea
Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey Rhinopithecus avunculus
Eastern Black Crested Gibbon Nomascus nasutus
Western Hoolock Gibbon Hoolock hoolock
Sumatran Orangutan Pongo abelii
Central and South America
Cotton-top Tamarin Saguinus oedipus
Variegated or Brown Spider Monkey Ateles hybridus
Peruvian Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey Oreonax flavicauda
Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation (BCSF)
· Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation (BCSF), part of the Bristol Zoologican Society, is supported by, and based at, Bristol Zoo Gardens. It carries out science and conservation projects at home and abroad.
· BCSF carries out field conservation programmes in the wild and conservation research programmes, both in the wild and at Bristol Zoo Gardens.
· The field projects carried out by BCSF are each linked to major exhibits at Bristol Zoo.
· BCSF is made up of an international team of experts dedicated to mobilising people for wildlife conservation and science.
· BCSF is working to empower communities to tackle their wildlife and conservation challenges and conducts high quality research.
Bristol Zoo Gardens
· Bristol Zoo Gardens is part of the Bristol Zoological Society, and is an education and conservation charity which relies on the income from visitors to support its work.
· Throughout 2010, Bristol Zoo will be running a series of events to highlight the importance of conserving the world’s biodiversity, as part of the international Year of Biodiversity. For more information visit the Zoo website at www.bristolzoo.org.uk/about/conservation/campaigns/iyob
· To find out more about the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity visit the website at http://www.biodiversityislife.net/
· The Zoo is involved with more than 100 co-ordinated breeding programmes for threatened wildlife species.
· It employs 140 full and part-time staff to care for the animals and run a successful visitor attraction to support its conservation and education work.
· Bristol Zoo Gardens supports – through finance and skill sharing - 12 projects in the UK and abroad that conserve and protect some of the world’s most endangered species.
· Bristol Zoo Gardens is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums. BIAZA represents 99 member collections and promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums.
· Bristol Zoo Gardens is also a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) as well as the European Associations of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA).
Conservation International (CI)
Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth's richest regions of plant and animal diversity in the biodiversity hotspots, high-biodiversity wilderness areas and key marine ecosystems. With headquarters in Washington, D.C.CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents. For more information about CI, visit http://www.conservation.org/
The International Primatological Society (IPS)
The International Primatological Society (IPS) was created to encourage all areas of non-human primatological scientific research, to facilitate cooperation among scientists of all nationalities engaged in primate research, and to promote the conservation of all primate species. The Society is organized exclusively for scientific, educational and charitable purposes. For more information about IPS, visit http://www.internationalprimatologicalsociety.org/
The IUCN Species Programme
The IUCN Species Program supports the activities of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) and individual Specialist Groups, as well as implementing global species conservation initiatives. It is an integral part of the IUCN Secretariat and is managed from IUCN’s international headquarters in Gland, Switzerland. It includes a number of technical units covering Species Trade and Use, Red List, Freshwater Biodiversity Assessment, (all located in Cambridge, UK), and the Global Biodiversity Assessment Initiative (located in Washington DC, USA). For more information about the IUCN species program visit www.iucn.org/species
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