Tanzania Endangered Primates
July 18, 2013

Study Confirms A Wealth Of Primates In Tanzania

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) research team has completed a five year study that gives new hope to some of the world's most endangered primates. The study, published in Oryx, establishes a road-map to protect all 27 species in Tanzania - the most primate-diverse country in mainland Africa.

The researchers combined Tanzania's first-ever inventory of all primate species and their habitats with the IUCN Red List criteria and other factors such as threats and rarity. This allowed the team to rank all 27 species from most vulnerable to least vulnerable, and then identify a network of "Priority Primate Areas" for conservation.

Out of all the primates species in Tanzania, one third are found nowhere else in the world. At most risk, according to the study, is the kipunji - first discovered by WCS in 2003 on Mt Rungwe and described by WCS as an entirely new genus in 2006. The Zanzibar red colobus is another extremely vulnerable species whose population is currently being counted by WCS. Among the more common species are baboons, black and white colobus monkeys and vervets.

A score was assigned by the research team to pinpoint the most important areas for protection. More than 60 important primate areas including national parks, game reserves, forest reserves, conservation areas, and currently unprotected landscapes were revealed by the analysis. The scientists determined, however, that by adequately protecting of just nine sites - including six national parks (Kilimanjaro, Kitulo, Mahale, Saadani, Udzungwa and Jozani-Chwaka Bay), one nature reserve (Kilombero) and two forest reserves (Minziro and Mgambo), totaling 3,350 square miles - all 27 primate species in Tanzania would be protected.

Other nations rich in wildlife that are facing burgeoning pressures from population growth could also apply the Priority Primate Areas method, similar to "Important Bird Areas," which is a global effort to identify and conserve places that are vital to birds and to protecting biodiversity. Tanzania's Priority Primate Areas, in fact, are rich in bird life as well, underscoring the value of the program to conservation in general. "For a developing nation of such global conservation importance like Tanzania, priority setting is an essential tool in managing wildlife," said Tim Davenport of WCS.

Scientists widely consider Tanzania as the most important country in mainland Africa for biodiversity and unique species. Tanzania contains continent's highest mountain, deepest lakes and large parts of two globally significant biodiversity hotspots, the Eastern Afromontane and the Albertine Rift.

Despite this, Tanzania has the second highest rate of forest loss in sub-Saharan Africa, despite considerable conservation investment and a large amount of land nominally under protection.

"This study has global implications as many nations grapple with reconciling their development needs with biological conservation and the needs of wildlife," said James Deutsch, WCS Executive Director for Africa Programs. "Science-based priority setting tools like this one are the best chance for developing nations to minimize biodiversity loss."