Gorillas, monkeys and other primates must be saved from 'impending extinction'

Despite gorillas, orangutans and lemurs being among the most popular wild animals, a factor that helps fund conservation efforts, their main threats are almost entirely caused by human beings.

Primates are hunted for meat and body parts or captured for life as pets; their habitats are destroyed as industrial-scale farms to make foodstuffs like palm oil take over previously wild land, dams are built or mining, oil and gas companies move in; and new threats like climate change and the spread of human diseases to animals are also emerging.

Of the 504 primate species, about 60 per cent are threatened with extinction and 75 per cent have declining populations.

However, researchers, who published the findings of a major review of primates in the journal Science Advances, insisted they could still be saved.

“Despite the impending extinction facing many of the world’s primates, we remain adamant that primate conservation is not yet a lost cause, and we are optimistic that the environmental and anthropogenic pressures leading to population declines can still be reversed,” they said.

“Unless we act, human-induced environmental threats in primate range regions will result in a continued and accelerated reduction in primate biodiversity,” the scientists said.

“Primate [populations] will be lost through a combination of habitat loss and degradation, population isolation in fragmented landscapes, population extirpation by hunting and trapping, and rapid population decline due to human and domestic animal-borne diseases, increasing human encroachment..."

“We have one last opportunity to greatly reduce or even eliminate the human threats to primates and their habitats, to guide conservation efforts, and to raise worldwide awareness of their predicament,” the researchers added. 

“Primates are critically important to humanity. After all, they are our closest living biological relatives.”