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  PlanetArk 26 Oct 07
Monkeys, Apes Teetering on Brink of Extinction - Report
Story by Emma Graham-Harrison

Yahoo News 26 Oct 07
Report: Primates in danger of extinction
By Michael Casey, AP Environmental Writer

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.

"The situation is worst in Asia, where tropical forest destruction and the hunting and trading of monkeys puts many species at terrible risk," said Mittermeier, who is also chairman of the World Conservation Union's Primate Specialist Group, which prepared the report with the International Primatological Society.

The 25 most endangered primates include 11 from Asia, 11 from Africa and three from South and Central America. The list includes well-known primates like the Sumatran orangutan of Indonesia and the Cross River gorilla of Cameroon and Nigeria, as well as lesser known species, such as the greater bamboo lemur from Madagascar.

Six species are in the report for the first time, including a recently discovered Indonesian tarsier that has yet to be formally named and the kipunji from Tanzania, which was discovered in 2003.

"Some of the new species we discover are endangered from the get go," Mittermeier said. "If you find a new species and it's living in an area heavily impacted by habitat destruction and hunting, you recognize it's in trouble."

Habitat loss due to the clearing of tropical forests for agriculture, logging and fuel wood continues to be the major factor in the declining number of primates, according to the report.

In addition, climate change is altering the habitats of many species, leaving those with small habitat ranges even more vulnerable to extinction, it says.

Hunting for subsistence and commercial purposes is another major threat to primates, especially in Africa and Asia. Capture of live animals for the pet trade also poses a serious threat, particularly in Asia, the report found.

Four primates on the list from Vietnam have been decimated by hunting for their meat and bones, according to Barney Long, a conservation biologist based in Vietnam for the WWF Greater Mekong Program.

"All four species are close to extinction," Long said of the Delacour's langur, golden-headed langur, grey-shanked douc and Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. "The key populations have been stabilized. But there needs to be a lot more law enforcement and work to persuade local communities to support conservation for those numbers to increase."

The news is not all bad.

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."

PlanetArk 26 Oct 07
Monkeys, Apes Teetering on Brink of Extinction - Report
Story by Emma Graham-Harrison

BEIJING - Mankind's closest relatives are teetering on the brink of their first extinctions in more than a century, hunted by humans for food and medicine and squeezed from forest homes, a report on endangered primates said on Friday.

There are just a few dozen of the most threatened gibbons and langurs left, and one colobus may already have gone the way of the dodo, warned the report on the 25 most vulnerable primates.

"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 Russell Mittermeier, president of US-based environmental group Conservation International.

Primates include great apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas, as well as smaller cousins ranging from gibbons and lemurs to monkeys. They are sought after as food, pets, or for traditional medicines, and a few are still trapped for medical research.

Others are victims of competition for living space and resources as forests that make their habitat are chopped down.

"In Central and West Africa primate meat ... is a luxury item for the elite," Mittermeier told Reuters in a telephone interview from Cambodia. "Here it's even more for medicinal purposes, with most of the more valuable species going to markets in southeastern China."

Sumatran orangutans, one of two great apes on the list along with cross-river gorillas, are also threatened by a pet trade into Taiwan, he added.

But just a few thousand dollars could be enough to push up numbers of the most vulnerable animals, said Mittermeier, who hopes publicity from the report will bolster the flow of funds to conservation groups and income from ecotourism.

Primates survived the 20th century without losing a single known species -- in fact new ones are rapidly being found -- and should be relatively easy to protect, he added.

"With what we spend in one day in Iraq we could fund primate conservation for the next decade for every endangered and critically endangered and vulnerable species out there," he said.


China's environment and its animals are suffering from its rapid, dirty economic growth that may already have pushed a species of dolphin to extinction, scientists say.

But although its Hainan gibbon is thought to be the most endangered of all primates, with fewer than 20 surviving, the country's efforts to save the golden monkeys of remote southwestern Yunnan province have set a global model.

"What they have done, which I find really amazing, is they have local villagers following these groups on a daily basis," Mittermeier said. "We are looking now at applying that in Vietnam, in Madagascar and a few other places."

He said climate change -- a long-term threat to the most endangered species because it could wipe out the forests they survive in -- could also prove a "magnificent opportunity" if tropical forest protection and regrowth projects were included in UN programmes to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"Most of the primates are tropical forest animals, and tropical forests really have only been under serious decline in the last 50 years," Mittermeier said.

"Now we are pushing the idea that if you have so much carbon sequestered in these tropical forests don't cut them down, and compensate those countries which have the largest areas -- which also happen to be the countries that have the most primates."

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