A future without primates outside of humans seems unthinkable, but an extensive review of ape, monkey, tarsier, lemur and loris populations finds that 60 percent of all primates are now threatened with extinction, and about 75 percent are declining in numbers.
The review, the most comprehensive of its kind to date and published in Science Advances, paints a dire future for our closest biological relatives. Their only hope hangs on global conservation becoming an immediate priority, the international team of authors says.
"It is possible that some primates will go extinct in our lifetimes if we don't increase our efforts dramatically," Russell Mittermeier, a primatologist who is the president of Conservation International, told Seeker from a Madagascar airport.
Madagascar is one of just four countries-with Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo being the other three-that host two-thirds of all species of primates. Mittermeier, who is also the chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, explained that "primates are largely tropical rainforest animals," and these countries have such habitat, although these once-lush landscapes are shrinking across the planet.
A species of monkey might have already gone extinct during your lifetime: Miss Waldron's red colobus monkey. It was reportedly last seen in 1978.
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Paul Garber, who co-led the new study with Alejandro Estrada, said, "Several species of lemurs, monkeys and apes-such as the ring-tailed lemur, Udzunga red colobus monkey, Yunnan snub-nosed monkey, white-headed langur and Grauer's gorilla-are down to a population of a few thousand individuals."
Garber added, "In the case of the Hainan gibbon, a species of ape in China, there are fewer than 30 animals left."