Sunday, November 4, 2007

We are Losing Our Primate Cousins

Hunting, as well as loss of habitat due to climate change, logging and agriculture, continues to threaten the viability of many primate species:

"Almost a third of all apes, monkeys and other primates are in danger of extinction because of rampant habitat destruction, the commercial sale of their meat and the trade in illegal wildlife, a report released Friday said.

Of the world's 394 primate species, 114 are classified as threatened with extinction by the World Conservation Union.

The report by Conservation International and the International Primatological Society in Hainan, China, focuses on the plight of the 25 most endangered primates, including China's Hainan gibbon, of which only 17 remain.

'You could fit all the surviving members of the 25 species in a single football stadium; that's how few of them remain on Earth today,' said Russell A. Mittermeier, president of Conservation International."

That last statement is a real eye-opener. We are so used to huge population figures because of the success of our species, we forget just how few members of other species exist. Many hang by a thread of existence. Luckily there has been some progress:

"Nine primates from the last report in 2004 were taken off the list, mostly because of bolstered conservation efforts to save their populations. Among them are the eastern gorilla from Africa, the black-faced lion tamarin and the buffy-headed tufted capuchin from Brazil and the Perrier's sifaka from Madagascar.

'If you invest in a species in a proper way and do the conservation measures needed, you can reduce risk of extinction,' Mittermeier said. 'If we had resources, we would be able to take every one of the species off the list in the next five or 10 years.'"

Let's hope they get those resources. The more biodiversity our ecological system has, the stronger it will remain.

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