Half the World’s Primates Are Threatened With Extinction

Conservationists list the 25 most endangered monkeys, apes, and lemurs.
Red ruffed lemur. (Photo: Mark Newman)
Nov 24, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

More than half of the world’s monkeys, apes, lemurs, and other primates are now threatened by extinction, a group of international conservationists reported on Tuesday.

The group, led by scientists at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, released its updated Primates in Peril report, stressing that to reverse the losses of man’s closest relative, humans must reverse the course of large-scale habitat destruction (particularly forest burning and clearing); stop hunting primates for food; and halt the illegal wildlife trade.

“We are currently re-assessing all primates and there is great concern that the situation may be getting even worse for many of these iconic and important species,” Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, said in a statement.

The report is updated every two years and highlights the 25 primates most susceptible to extinction—five from biodiverse Madagascar, five from Africa, 10 from Asia, and five from Central and South America.

“Some of these animals have tiny populations remaining in the wild,” Christoph Schwitzer, director of conservation at Bristol Zoological Society, said in a statement. “Support and action to help save them is vital if we are to avoid losing these wonderful animals forever.”

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Some species singled out in the report include the Hainan gibbon—only 25 of which are thought to remain in the wild—and Madagascar’s northern sportive lemurs, of which only 50 remain in their native habitat.

While there are new additions to the updated list, including the Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur—an undiscovered species until two years ago—a species’ falling off the list doesn’t indicate it is faring any better.

“The changes made in this list compared to the previous iteration (2012–2014) were not because the situation of the species that were dropped has improved,” the report stated. “In some cases, such as...Microcebus berthae [Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur], the situation has in fact worsened, due to ongoing deforestation in this species’ small distribution range in western Madagascar. By making these changes, we intend rather to highlight other, closely related species enduring equally bleak prospects for their future survival.”

Russell Mittermeier, chair of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, said he hopes the report encourages governments to commit to biodiversity conservation measures.

“There is increasing evidence that certain species may play a key role in dispersing the seeds of tropical forest tree species that have a critically important role in mitigating climate change—a particularly noteworthy consideration given the upcoming conference of the parties of the climate convention in Paris,” Mittermeier said in a statement.

Below is a list of the 25 most endangered primates compiled in the 2014–16 report and their estimated populations in the wild.

1. Lavasoa dwarf lemur—unknown
2. Lac Alaotra bamboo lemur—about 2,500–5,000
3. Red ruffed lemur—unknown
4. Preuss’s red colobus monkey—unknown
5. Northern sportive lemur—around 50
6. Rondo dwarf galago—unknown, but remaining habitat is just 40 square miles
7. Roloway monkey—unknown, but thought to be on the very verge of extinction
8. Tana River red colobus monkey—1,000 and declining
9. Perrier’s sifaka—1,700–2,600
10. Eastern lowland gorilla—2,000–10,000
11. Javan slow loris—unknown
12. Philippine tarsier—unknown
13. Pig-tailed langur—3,300
14. Cat Ba langur (golden-headed langur)—60
15. Delacour’s langur—234–275
16. Tonkin snub-nosed monkey—fewer than 250
17. Kashmir gray langur—unknown
18. Western purple-faced langur—unknown
19. Hainan gibbon—25
20. Sumatran orangutan—6,600

Northern sportive lemur. (Photo: Flickr)

21. Ka’apor capuchin—unknown
22. San Martin titi monkey—unknown
23. Northern brown howler monkey—fewer than 250 mature animals

Philippine tarsier. (Photo: Joel Nito/Getty Images)

24. Colombian brown spider monkey—unknown
25. Ecuadorian brown-headed spider monkey—unknown

Sumatran orangutun. (Photo: Chaideer Mahyuddin/Getty Images)

Northern brown howler monkey. (Photo: Facebook)