The World's Most Threatened Primates

A Tonkin Snub-Nosed Monkey.
A Tonkin Snub-Nosed Monkey.

Earth is a primate planet thanks to the 7.3 billion humans who live and shape its surface. However, there are other 700 primate species that inhabit the earth’s surface and approximately half of them are on the verge of extinction. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission, these 6 species are the world's most threatened.

6. Silky Sifaka

The Silky Sifaka is one of the rarest lemur primates found in northeast Madagascar where it is locally referred to as the Simpona. Silky Sifaka inhabits the restricted high altitude regions of the Marojejy National Park, Makira Forest Protected Area, and Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve, which represent a fraction of what it occupied in the 19th century. It is distinguished for its long, white fur with a silky texture. According to the IUCN Red List, there only 250 individuals of the species left of which only 50 are fully grown adults capable of reproducing.

The existence of Silky Sifaka is in critical danger of extinction following the loss of their habitats caused mainly by slay and burn of the forest cover in favor of rice production and illegal harvesting of the rosewood trees to support construction projects for the mushrooming population. Human hunting also puts pressure on the survival of the species as the bush lemurs are hunted for the meat which is openly sold in restaurants and markets as a local delicacy.

5. Northern Muriqui Woolly Spider Monkey

The Northern Muriqui Woolly Spider Monkey is the largest New World primate characterized by thick, fleecy fur, which is grey or yellow-brown in color. It is one of the critically endangered primates inhabiting the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. It is estimated that there are 500 individuals of the northern Muriqui which are declining at a drastically high rate of 60% over the last sixty years. As it is synonymous with other primates in the world, its existence is highly threatened by hunting as a source of food and leisure sport. The destruction and fragmentation of the Atlantic forest from illegal logging have led to the destruction of the natural habitat of the Muriqui hampering its survival in the wild. The primate also faces low genetic diversity hampering reproduction and captive breeding efforts meaning a single loss of the population creates existence threats.

4. Tonkin Snub-Nosed Monkey

The Tonkin Monkey is one of the critically endangered primate species in the world that was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in 1989. It is endemic in northeast Vietnam and its continued survival is dependent on the remnant 200 individuals. Historically, it is known to have inhabited the forest cover along the Red River but its habitat has drastically reduced in the last decade. Massive deforestation and habitat degradation in favor of gold mining, agriculture, and road construction have entirely threatened the survival of the monkey. As with any other primates in Vietnam, the Tonkin monkey is threatened by hunting to be used in herbal medicines and as a source of meat even with its reported awful taste.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species banned the hunting and trade of the Tonkin, but efforts have been threatened by the recent hydroelectric power project along the Gam River leading to a high inflow of construction labor force and higher demand for Tonkin’s bush meat.

3. Greater Bamboo Lemur

The Greater Bamboo Lemur, commonly known as the broad-nosed bamboo lemur, inhabits a small fragment of the giant bamboo forests in southeastern Madagascar. It is listed on IUCN’s Red List as one of the 25 most endangered primate with only a population of 150 individuals. The species had been thought to be extinct but the current population was rediscovered in 1986 and consists of only 4% of its historic distribution.

Rampant deforestation resulting from illegal logging, mining, and the slash and burn activities in favor of agriculture has threatened the survival of the lemur. It also faces major slingshot hunting as a local source of delicacy in Madagascar. Its habitation range is mainly threatened its dietary specialization that consists of bamboo and its microhabitat preferences. Conservation efforts launched by the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments have been hampered by the political turmoil in Madagascar that has hampered the declaration of the bamboo-forest as protected areas to ensure the continued survival of the lemur in the wild.

2. Hainan Gibbon

The majestic enigmatic Hainann Gibbon is among the world’s critically endangered species whose continued existence is dependent on the 25 surviving individuals. The 25 individuals are confined to a single small fragment of the remnant rainforest of Bawangling National Nature Reserve in Southeast China. Government records show that the species once inhabited half of the forest cover in China in the 17th century. As of the 1950s, there were 2,000 individuals of the species which declined at an alarming rate.

The extinction of the species is largely attributed to anthropogenic pressures of the escalating human population in China. Decades of illegal deforestation by illegitimate pulp paper growers coupled with the logging of lowland forest drove the monkeys to high altitude regions beyond their survival. The precipitous decline is also attributed to increased hunting of the species as a source of food and poaching them for the illegal pet trade and for use in traditional medicines.

1. Roloway Guenon

The Roloway Guenon is one of the three most endangered primates in Western Africa. It is one of the Old World Monkeys inhabiting mature and lowland moist forests with first and second growth deciduous trees. A recent unprecedented decline in the species has been reported following the destruction of their natural habitats in Ghana. Within the last century, Ghana has lost 80% of its forest cover to deforestation to support the increasing population and food security needs putting pressure on the population of Roloway monkeys. Bushmeat hunting has also contributed to the population decline as the primate is mainly hunted for meat. Over 800 tons of bushmeat is traded in the Ghanaian market annually approximating it to 160,000 monkeys. The Roloway is an easy prey target due to its conspicuous colors and loud calls that are easily imitated by predators.


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