The Daily Star

Your Right To Know
Sunday, October 4, 2015

Friday, December 28, 2007

Primates disappearing from tropical forests

Eco-system in peril

Primates are considered closest living relatives of mankind. These living relatives -- apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates -- are becoming rarer from the tropical forest. “Reasons for the decline are no mystery: they all relate directly or indirectly to human actions" says a Worldwatch Institute report. A survey, worked out by 60 experts from 21 countries, cautions that failure to respond to the mounting threats has now been worsened by climate change. On the whole, 114 of the world's 394 primate species are categorised as threatened with disappearance on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. Illegal wildlife trade and commercial plant-meat poaching have been largely blamed for their disappearance.

Russell A. Mittermeier
The primate-mongers brutally kill primates for food and to vend the meat. They encage them for live business; and farmers, loggers and land promoters destroy their habitat. One species, Miss Waldron's red colobus of Ivory Coast and Ghana, already is feared extinct, while the golden-headed langur of Vietnam and China's Hainan gibbon number only in the dozens. The Horton Plains slender loris of Sri Lanka has been sighted just four times since 1937.

"You could fit all the surviving members of these 25 species in a single football stadium; that's how few of them remain on Earth today," said Conservation International President Russell A. Mittermeier, who also chairs the IUCN/Species Survival Commission (SSC) Primate Specialist Group. "The situation is worst in Asia, where tropical forest destruction and the hunting and trading of monkeys put many species at terrible risk. Even newly discovered species are severely threatened from loss of habitat and could soon disappear." “By protecting the world's remaining tropical forests,” Mittermeier says, “we can save primates and other endangered species while helping prevent climate change.”

Enlisted countries and regions
The 21st Congress of the International Primatological Society in Entebbe, Uganda has published an alarming report that enlists the world's 25 most endangered primates. Eight of the primates on the latest list, including the Sumatran orangutan of Indonesia and the Cross River gorilla of Cameroon and Nigeria, are "four-time losers" that also appeared on the previous three lists. Six other species are on the list for the first time, including a recently discovered Indonesian tarsier that has yet to be formally named. Madagascar and Vietnam each have four primates on the new list, while Indonesia has three, followed by Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Colombia with two each, and one each from China, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Peru, Venezuela and Ecuador. Some primates on the list are found in more than one country.

By region, the list includes 11 species from Asia, seven from Africa, four from Madagascar, and three from South America, showing that non-human primates are threatened wherever they live. All 25 primates on the 2006-2008 list are found in the world's biodiversity hotspots--34 high priority regions identified by Conservation International that cover just 2.3 percent of the Earth's land surface but harbour well over 50 percent of all terrestrial plant and animal diversity. Eight of the hotspots are considered the highest priorities for the survival of the most endangered primates: Indo-Burma, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands, Sundaland, Eastern Afromontane, Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa, Guinean Forests of West Africa, the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, and Western Ghats-Sri Lanka.

Basic issues
A journal states, the clearing of tropical forests for agriculture, logging, and the collection of fuel wood continue to be key factors in marauding the primates. Tropical deforestation also emits 20 percent of total greenhouse gases that cause climate change, which is more than the carbon discharge of all the world's cars, trucks, trains and airplanes combined. In addition, climate change is altering the habitats of many species, leaving those with small ranges even more vulnerable to extinction. Hunting for subsistence and commercial purposes is another major threat to primates, especially in Africa and Asia. Live capture for the pet trade also poses a serious threat, particularly to Asian species.

The list focuses on the severity of the overall threat rather than mere numbers. Some on the list, such as the Sumatran orangutan, still number in the low thousands but are disappearing at a faster rate than other primates. Others were discovered only in recent years, and their low numbers and limited range make them particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction and other threats.

These genus are our closest living family members. Non-human primates are indispensable to keep up our eco-system's energy. Through scattering seeds and other interactions with their environments, primates facilitate to sustain a wide range of plant and animal life that rebuild the Earth's forests. Conservation of non-human primates is a critical issue facing primatologists today. By protecting the world's remaining tropical forests, we should save primates and other endangered species for our easy breathe. We have to check strictly the factors that lead to primate related business or its annihilation.

Mohammad Shahidul Islam is UNESCO Heritage Guide Trainer in Bangladesh.

Share on






The Daily Star

©, 1991-2015. All Rights Reserved