In a bleak new study, 60% of nonhuman primates could see a mass extinction.
The study evaluated the survival of all 505 primate species known to exist and it found that about 75% are in decline and about 60% – including drills and gibbons, lemurs and tarsiers, bush babies and spider monkeys – face the threat of extinction.
“The figures suggest that we may be reaching a tipping point or perhaps we are already there,” said Alejandro Estrada, lead author of the study and a senior research scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, in an email to Mongabay. He and 30 other primatologists published their research Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.
“Sadly, in the next 25 years, many of these primate species will disappear unless we make conservation a global priority,” he adds. “This, by itself, would be a tragic loss. Now, consider the hundreds of other species facing a similar fate around the world, and you get a sense of what’s truly at stake.”
The researchers said that massive habitat loss and illegal hunting are the primary causes of these threats. Forests, for instance, which serve as primate habitat, are converted to industrial agriculture, which leave primates with no place to live.
Primates live in around 90 countries, but the vast majority of species live in Brazil, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar. In the latter, 87% of its species face extinction.
Jo Setchell, co-author of the study, said after completing the research that primates are in “dire trouble”.
The decline is mammoth, the extinction threat real. ‘This dismal situation is our fault,” she said. “Without action, these numbers will grow and more species will disappear forever.”