August 5, 2008

Almost Half Of World’s Primates Face Extinction Threat

Half of the world's primate population currently faces a looming threat of extinction due to deforestation and hunting for meat, according to an international report on Tuesday.

The global review, conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature found that 48 percent of species face extinction.

"We have solid data to show that the situation is far more severe than we imagined," said Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International and head of IUCN' primate specialist group.

In Asia, more than 70 percent of primates are listed as endangered, according to the international study.

The report is part of the most detailed survey of the Earth's mammals.

"In many places, primates are quite literally being eaten to extinction," Mittermeier said.

"Tropical forest destruction has always been the main cause, but now it appears that hunting is just as serious a threat in some areas, even where the habitat is still quite intact."

"Gorilla meat, chimpanzee meat and meat of other apes fetches a higher price than beef, chicken or fish" in some African countries, he said.

The survey, involving hundreds of experts, showed that out of 634 recognized species and subspecies, 11% were critically endangered, 22% were endangered, while a further 15% were listed as vulnerable.

A previous report from five years ago found that just 39 percent of the world's primates were at risk.

Among species most at risk, or "critically endangered", were the Bouvier's red colobus, an African monkey which has not been seen in 25 years, and the greater bamboo lemur of Madagascar totaling only about 140 in the wild.

"If you took all the individuals of the top 25 most endangered species and assigned each of them a seat ... they probably wouldn't fill a football stadium," Mittermeier said.

Mittermeier said that the outlook was not all gloom. In Brazil, the black lion tamarin and the golden lion tamarin were downlisted to endangered from critically endangered after conservation efforts.

"There's no question that we can win the battle," he said.

The report will be released at the International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland.


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