23/11/2015

World’s 25 most endangered primates revealed

The latest edition of the world’s 25 most endangered primates has been revealed today.

Compiled by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC), Bristol Zoological Society, the International Primatological Society (IPS), and Conservation International (CI), new additions to the list include Philippine tarsier and Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur.

The report, which is updated every two years, highlights the plight of species such as the Hainan gibbon, of which there are thought to be just 25 individuals left in the wild. Similarly, around just 50 northern sportive lemurs remain in their native Madagascar.

More than half of the world’s 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 greenhouse gases causing climate change), the hunting of primates for food, and the illegal wildlife trade.

The list includes five primate species from Madagascar, five from Africa, 10 from Asia, and five from Central and South America, all of which are the most in need of urgent conservation action.

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, Director of Conservation at Bristol Zoological Society and a world-leading primatologist.

He explained the significance of the report: “This research highlights the extent of the danger facing many of the world’s primates,” he said. “We hope it will focus people’s attention on these lesser known primate species, some of which most people will probably have never heard of, such as the Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur from Madagascar - a species only discovered two years ago - or the Roloway monkey from Ghana and Ivory Coast, which we believe is on the very verge of extinction.”

He added: “Some of these animals have tiny populations remaining in the wild and support and action to help save them is vital if we are to avoid losing these wonderful animals forever.”

Madagascar and Vietnam both have large numbers of highly threatened primate species. In Africa, the genus of the red colobus monkeys is under particular threat, as are some of the howler monkeys and spider monkeys of South America. All of these species are relatively large and conspicuous, making them prime targets for bushmeat hunting.

Dr Russell Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and Executive Vice Chair of Conservation International, said: “The purpose of our Top 25 list is to highlight those primates 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.”

He added: “What is more, beyond the great scientific interest of primates, 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."

Locally implemented projects to protect the Northern sportive lemur and Alaotra gentle lemur were announced in October by SOS (Save Our Species) an initiative managed by IUCN, yet much remains to be done for other species.

Dr Schwitzer said: “This report makes scary reading for primatologists and the public alike, and highlights where we as conservationists must focus our attention over the coming years. However, it also demonstrates the growing importance of collaboration between the international conservation, research and zoo communities in the protection of species and habitats.”

He added: “At Bristol Zoological Society 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.”

Compiled by 63 experts from across the world, the report of the world’s 25 most endangered primates was launched at Singapore Zoo today (November 24) with guests from national and international conservation and research organisations.

Primate Species Estimated numbers remaining in the wild
Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur Unknown
Lake Alaotra bamboo lemur 2,500 – 5,000 animals
Red ruffed lemur Unknown
Northern sportive lemur Around 50
Perrier's sifaka 1,700 – 2,600 animals
Rondo dwarf galago Unknown, but remaining habitat is just 100km2
Roloway monkey Unknown, but thought to be on the very verge of extinction
Preuss' red colobus monkey Unknown
Tana River red colobus monkey 1,000 animals and declining
Grauer's gorilla 2,000 – 10,000 animals
Philippine tarsier Unknown
Javan slow loris Unknown
Pig-tailed langur 3,300 animals
Cat Ba langur ca. 60 animals
Delacour’s langur 234 – 275 animals
Tonkin snub-nosed monkey less than 250 animals
Kashmir grey langur Unknown
Western purple-faced langur Unknown
Hainan gibbon ca. 25 animals
Sumatran orangutan Unknown
Ka'apor capuchin    Unknown
Northern brown howler monkey less than 250 mature individuals
Colombian brown spider monkey Unknown
Ecuadorian brown-headed spider monkey Unknown