Nearly half of all non-human primates in the world are staring at extinction. In fact, in some areas of the world, the threat to the primates has reached a critical point and urgent measures need to be taken to ensure their continued existence. In Cambodia and Vietnam for instance, nine of ten species of primates are listed as either Vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN's Red List.
Why Are Primates Endangered?
Primates are endangered not because of natural death but due to human activities. Human activities include destruction of habitat, poaching, and being kept as pets. As human populations rise, the natural environment gives way for agricultural and commercial purposes. Logging and clearing land for agricultural purpose leaves primates without a natural environment and leads to a conflict that humans are yet to lose. Habitat loss is rampant in South East Asia where forest land is often cleared for palm oil plantations. In other parts of the world, primates are a source of food. They are hunted for bushmeat. As the habitat lose increase, the primates have nowhere to hide and became easier target.
Every year thousands of primates are captured from wild habitats and sold as exotic pets. Unfortunately, most of the targeted animals die during capture or while in transportation. The ones that make it to their owners live in the solitary life of captivity. They are often subjected to poor living conditions and die within a short time.
Despite the decreasing numbers, scientists continue to discover more species of primates. Most of the new discoveries are done in environments less impacted by human activities. From 2000, 53 new species have been discovered. 40 of the discoveries were made in the remote parts of Madagascar. The greater bamboo lemur was once thought to be on the brink of extinction, about 100 were known to inhabit the wild but discoveries in the forests of Madagascar from 2007 onwards have lowered their status from critically endangered to endangered. Other measures undertaken by researchers include breeding of primates in captivity and rehabilitating them back into the wild. The gold lion tamarin and the black lion tamarin of Brazil are such a success story.