Every one of the world’s 235 primate species is listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, except for humans. Thankfully! Did you know that one-third of all our primate relatives are in danger of extinction because of their supposedly more intelligent relatives, we humans? I guess that probably the oldest influence we exert on our fellow primates is that of killing them for meat.
Around the world
In the Brazil rain forests, primates such as howler and woolly monkeys are killed regularly for food. In Africa, monkeys and apes are shot and sold in markets as “bush-meat”. While they were being shot in the past by trophy hunters, primates are today killed to satisfy a huge demand for souvenirs from tourists. Monkeys with attractive skins and gorillas’ hands made into ashtrays are popular souvenirs.
Why in danger?
Living primates are taken from their habitats for one of two basic reasons – to satisfy the pet trade or to provide animals for scientific and pharmaceutical research. Babies are caught, after their mothers have been shot and are then are sold as pets or to zoos and research laboratories.
However, habitat destruction seems to be generally regarded as the most serious reason for the decline in primate populations. Almost all monkeys and apes are found in the tropics, the majority occurring in rain forests or tropical deciduous forests. Logging or clearance for agriculture is estimated to be destroying more than 50 hectares of these habitats each minute.
Primates are one of our closest animal relatives and almost half of them live in south-east Asia. If something constructive is not done to save them, many species could soon disappear.
Top 10 endangered primates
1: Greater bamboo lemur (Madagascar)
2: Perrier’s sifaka (Madagascar)
3: Silky sifaka (Madagascar)
4: Black-faced lion tamarin (Brazil)
5: Buff-headed capuchin (Brazil)
6: Northern muriqui (Brazil)
7: Miss Waldron’s red colobus (Ghana and Ivory Coast)
8: Roloway guenon (Ghana and Ivory Coast)
9: Tana River mangabey and Tana River red colobus (Kenya)
10: Sanje mangabey (Tanzania)
In 2000, 120 different primate types were thought to be in danger. That’s risen to 1995 in just two years. Primates are vital for the environment because they help keep important plants growing. When they eat fruits and other plant food, the seeds are spread around the forests when they go to the toilet.