Eastern Lowland gorillas are included among the World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates list that was unveiled October 15 at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in India, a clear sign that the species faces an uphill conservation battle.
Less than 5,000 of the gorillas are thought to remain in the wild, and live only in areas of eastern DR Congo that are torn by civil and political unrest.
The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates List (2012–2014) was compiled by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the International Primatological Society (IPS), in collaboration with Conservation International (CI) and the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation (BCSF).
The report reveals those species most in danger of becoming extinct from destruction of tropical forests, illegal wildlife trade and commercial bush meat hunting.
“Eastern Lowland gorillas may be the only great apes on that list, but they face the same pressures to survive as all apes,” said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress. “Cross River gorillas, Mountain gorillas, Sumatran orangutans and many others are on the brink.”
The list features nine primate species from Asia, six from Madagascar, five from Africa and five from the Neotropics. In terms of individual countries, Madagascar tops the list with six of the 25 most endangered species. Vietnam has five, Indonesia three, Brazil two, and China, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Venezuela each have one.
Conservationists hope the report highlights the plight of species such as the Pygmy Tarsier (Tarsius pumilus) of southern and central Sulawesi, which was only known from three museum specimens until 2008, when three individuals were captured inside the Lore Lindu National Park and one more was observed in the wild. Madagascar’s lemurs are severely threatened by habitat destruction and illegal hunting, and red-listing workshop held earlier this revealed that 91% of the 103 species and subspecies were threatened with extinction.
More than half (54%) of the world’s 633 primate species and subspecies with known conservation status are classified as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
“Primates are our closest living relatives and probably the best flagship species for tropical rain forests, since more than 90 percent of all known primates occur in this endangered biome,” said GRASP patron Dr. Russell Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group and President of Conservation International, “Amazingly, we continue to discover new species every year since 2000. What is more, primates are increasingly becoming a major ecotourism attraction, and primate-watching is growing in interest and serving as a key source of livelihood in many local communities living around protected areas in which these species occur.”
Despite the gloomy assessment, conservationists point to the success in helping targeted species recover. The world has not lost a single primate species to extinction in the 20th century, and no primate had yet to be declared extinct in the 21st century either, although some are very close to total extirpation. This is a better record than for most other groups of larger vertebrates that have lost at least one, often more, species.
GRASP is a unique alliance comprised of partner nations, United Nations agencies, conservation organizations, and private supporters working to conserve great apes and their habitat in Africa and Asia. For more information, please visit www.un-grasp.org.
The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) is an innovative and ambitious partnership comprised of great ape range states with an immediate challenge - to lift the threat of imminent extinction faced by gorillas (Gorilla beringei, G. gorilla), chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), bonobos (Pan paniscus) and orangutans (Pongo abelii, P. pygmaeus) across their ranges in equatorial Africa and Southeast Asia.
The A.P.E.S portal is an online tool that provides real-time, visual representation of information about great apes, their habitats, populations, threats and conservation efforts around the world.
© 2012 Great Apes Survival Partnership