Report: After century of survival, many primates face extinction
The golden bamboo lemur tops the list of endangered primates
January 10, 2000
Web posted at: 5:43 p.m. EST (2243 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After surviving the 20th century with no
extinctions, dozens of primate species face the threat of
disappearing forever, according to a report released Monday
by Conservation International.
CNN's Natalie Pawelski reports on the primate species that are in danger of extinction.
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One in five species of primates, many living in biologically
rich but rapidly shrinking habitats, could become extinct
within a generation, according to the organization's office
in Washington, D.C.
From giant mountain gorillas to tiny golden lion tamarins,
Sumatran orangutans to yellow-tailed woolly monkeys, the
study identifies 25 of the most endangered primates.
The critically endangered species "are just the tip of the
iceberg," said Russ Mittermeier, CI president and primate
specialist. "These are the animals that are down to a few
thousand individuals, and in a few cases, a few dozen
Some perilously small populations
Most of the endangered apes, monkeys, lemurs and other
primates live in "biodiversity hotspots," home to the richest
terrestrial species diversity, and some of the most extreme
"As we enter the new millennium, we risk losing our closest
in the animal kingdom, as well as many of
the world's highest biodiversity areas that these animals
have come to symbolize," Mittermeier said.
The Sumatran orangutan
The report lists species with perilously small populations,
primates recently discovered or rediscovered and species
whose populations were stable only a few years ago but now
Conservationists attribute most of the species' declines to
tropical deforestation by loggers and settlers and primate
killing by bushmeat hunters. Live capture for the pet trade
and export for biomedical research also threaten some
"Close to 20 percent of the world's primates stand a
reasonable chance of disappearing within the next 10 to 20
years unless we take decisive action," said William Konstant,
co-author of the report.
Twenty-five biodiversity hotspots, where 96 percent of the
most threatened primates live, cover only 1.4 percent of the
Earth's land surface, but claim more than 60 percent of all
plant and animal diversity, according to CI.
Like 'canaries in the coal mine'
Hotspots with the most endangered primates are in Southeast Asia --
particularly Vietnam -- Madagascar, Brazil's Atlantic Forest
Region, the Guinean Forests of West Africa and Sundaland.
The yellow-tailed woolly monkey
The group's report, "Primates in Peril," suggests the population
declines linked with habitat destruction bode poorly for humans.
"If the primates are in trouble that probably means a lot of other
species of animals and the plants they eat are also in trouble,"
said Karen Strier, a researcher from the University of Wisconsin
"We see them as the canaries in the coal mine, warning us that
something is terribly wrong with the way that we are living on
this planet," said Peter Seligmann, chairman of Conservation
A non-profit field-based organization working in 27
countries, CI develops scientific, policy and economic
solutions to protect global biodiversity.
Environmental Correspondent Natalie Pawelski
contributed to this report.
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