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Urgent action needed to protect world’s primates

Anna Nekaris, Professor in Anthropology and Primate Conservation, Vincent Nijman, Professor in Anthropology and Dr Susan Cheyne, Associate Lecturer in Anthropology and Primate Conservation joined other internationally recognised experts in highlighting the need to protect the world’s rapidly vanishing primate populations in June 2018.

Non-human primates are our closest biological relatives and offer unique insights into human evolution, biology, ecology, behaviour and the threat of emerging diseases. They are an essential component of tropical biodiversity, contributing to forest regeneration and ecosystem health, and play important roles in the livelihoods, cultures and religions of many societies.

An article published in the scientific journal PeerJ highlighted the significance of Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo for global primate conservation.

Sixty per cent of nonhuman primates threatened with extinction

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists 439 nonhuman primate species. Sixty per cent of these are threatened with extinction, including chimpanzees, orangutans and lowland gorillas.

Calling for a global imperative to prevent mass extinction, the researchers examined the various pressures, such as habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, political instability, corruption, human population expansion, food insecurity and unsustainable international commodity trade driven by demands of consumer nations.

Using information from the World Bank and United Nations databases, the group, from the UK, US, Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa, modelled spatial conflict between current primate distributions and projected agricultural expansion in these four primate-rich countries under a worst-case-scenario.

The results indicated an expected primate range contraction of 78% for Brazil, 72% for Indonesia, 62% for Madagascar and 32% for the Democratic Republic of Congo by the end of the century.

Consuming less will help protect primates

Professor Anna Nekaris said: “Many iconic species will be lost unless these countries, international organisations, consumer nations and global citizens take immediate action to protect primate populations and their habitats.

“People don’t realise that in their daily lives, by consuming less and making more ecologically friendly consumer choices, such as reducing use of single use plastic and eating food grown locally, they can have direct impacts on tropical forests and the long-term sustainability of biodiversity.”

Read a round-up of other research news 

Find out about Anna’s project to save the world’s only venomous primate – the Slow Loris