Sumatran orang utans on most endangered primates list

Carolyn Khew, Straits Times AsiaOne 25 Nov 15;

The burning of large tracts of forests has not only caused the haze, but is also pushing the Sumatran orang utans close to extinction.

A species familiar to Singaporeans because of Ah Meng - the Singapore Zoo's best-known and most endearing ambassador - it is among the world's 25 most endangered primates, said a report launched at the Singapore Zoo yesterday.

Recent published data said there are only about 6,600 orang utans remaining in fragmented habitats in the central regions of Aceh, home to a majority of Sumatran orang utans. Overall, population numbers and habitats remain on a downward trend, noted the report.

Entitled Primates In Peril: The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates 2014-2016, the list was compiled by international primatologists from the Primate Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) Species Survival Commission (SSC) and other international conservation and research organisations.

The list includes primate species from Madagascar, Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Asia alone contains 10 out of the 25 species including the Hainan Gibbon, of which there are just 25 individuals left in the world, all on Hainan.

While it is not the first time the orang utans have been on the biennial list, the species was brought back again after a lapse of a few years because it is now considered to be in a "crisis situation".

Calling deforestation for palm oil a "terrible crisis", the chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and one of the editors of the report, Russell Mittermeier, said it continued to remain a major issue, adding that this year's forest fires were exacerbated by the El Nino.

"One of the most important habitats for them is the peat swamp forest… There's always pressure to convert these peat swamps to oil-palm plantations and that's a disaster," he said at the launch.

These orang utans are also extremely vulnerable to extinction because of factors such as their slow reproductive rate.

The females give birth to one infant every eight or nine years - so over their lifetimes, one female may not have more than three - and previous studies have shown that the loss of 1 per cent of females a year can place a population on an "irreversible trajectory to extinction", the report said.

The only other orang utan species is the Bornean orang utan, which differs slightly in appearance and behaviour.

A world-leading primatologist- Christoph Schwitzer, another editor behind the report - said he hoped the list would help draw attention to some of the lesser known primate species such as the Roloway monkey from Ghana and Ivory Coast, believed to be on the verge of extinction.

Apart from the need for national governments to do more, experts say zoos can play an important role in raising awareness of these endangered species, especially in today's urbanised world.


Over half of world's primates on brink of extinction: experts
AFP Yahoo News 24 Nov 15;

Singapore (AFP) - More than half the world's primates, including apes, lemurs and monkeys, are facing extinction, international experts warned Tuesday, as they called for urgent action to protect mankind's closest living relatives.

The population crunch is the result of large-scale habitat destruction -- particularly the burning and clearing of tropical forests -- as well as the hunting of primates for food and the illegal wildlife trade.

Species long-known to be at risk, including the Sumatran orangutan, have been joined on the most endangered list for the first time by the Philippine tarsier and the Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur from Madagascar, scientists meeting in Singapore said.

"This research highlights the extent of the danger facing many of the world's primates," leading primatologist Christoph Schwitzer, director of conservation at Bristol Zoological Society in Britain, said in a statement.

"We hope it will focus people's attention on these lesser known primate species, some of which most people will probably have never heard of."

This includes the Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur -- a species only discovered two years ago -- and the Roloway monkey from Ghana and Ivory Coast, which experts say "are on the very verge of extinction".

There are 703 species and sub-species of primates in the world.

Madagascar and Vietnam are home to large numbers of highly threatened primate species, the statement said.

In Africa, the red colobus monkeys was under "particular threat", as were some of South America's howler monkeys and spider monkeys, it added.

"All of these species are relatively large and conspicuous, making them prime targets for bushmeat hunting," the statement said.

Russell Mittermeier, chair of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said he hoped the report would encourage governments to commit to "desperately needed biodiversity conservation measures".

Mittermeier said ahead of next month's global climate conference in Paris, there was growing evidence some primate species might play key roles in dispersing tropical forest tree seeds, which in turn "have a critically important role in mitigating climate change".

Here is the list of the world's top 25 most endangered primates for 2014-2016 and their estimated numbers remaining in the wild.

The list is compiled by the IUCN, Bristol Zoological Society, International Primatological Society and Conservation International and is updated every two years:

Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur -- unknown
Lake Alaotra bamboo lemur -- about 2,500-5,000
Red ruffed lemur -- unknown
Northern sportive lemur -- around 50
Perrier's sifaka -- 1,700-2,600
Rondo dwarf galago -- unknown but remaining habitat is just 100 square kilometres (40 square miles)
Roloway monkey -- unknown but thought to be on the very verge of extinction
Preuss' red colobus monkey -- unknown
Tana River red colobus monkey -- 1,000 and declining
Grauer's gorilla -- 2,000-10,000
Philippine tarsier -- unknown
Javan slow loris -- unknown
Pig-tailed langur -- 3,300
Cat Ba langur (golden headed langur) -- 60
Delacour's langur -- 234-275
Tonkin snub-nosed monkey -- less than 250
Kashmir grey langur -- unknown
Western purple-faced langur -- unknown
Hainan gibbon -- 25
Sumatran orangutan -- 6,600
Ka'apor capuchin -- unknown
San Martin titi monkey -- unknown
Northern brown howler monkey -- less than 250 mature animals
Colombian brown spider monkey -- unknown
Ecuadorian brown-headed spider monkey -- unknown


World’s 25 most endangered primates revealed
IUCN 24 Nov 15;

The latest edition of ‘Primates in Peril: The world’s 25 most endangered primates’ has been revealed today. Compiled by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC), Bristol Zoological Society, the International Primatological Society (IPS), and Conservation International (CI), new additions to the list include Philippine tarsier (Tarsius syrichta) and Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus lavasoensis), both of which are threatened by habitat loss.

The report, which is updated every two years, highlights the plight of 25 species including the Hainan gibbon (Nomascus hainanus), of which there are thought to be just 25 individuals left in the wild, and the Northern sportive lemurs (Lepilemur septentrionalis) of which just around 50 remain in their native Madagascar.

The main threats to primates are habitat destruction, particularly from the burning and clearing of tropical forests – which results in the release of greenhouse gases causing climate change – the hunting of primates for food, and the illegal wildlife trade.

“The world’s primate species are at great risk with more than half of the species threatened with extinction on The IUCN Red List,” says Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “We are currently re-assessing all primates and there is great concern that the situation may be getting even worse for many of these iconic and important species. Locally implemented projects to protect the Northern sportive lemur and Alaotra gentle lemur were announced in October by SOS – Save Our Species – an initiative managed by IUCN, yet much remains to be done for other species.”

The list, which has been drawn up by primatologists working in the field who have first-hand knowledge of the causes of threats to primates, includes five primate species from Madagascar, five from Africa, 10 from Asia, and five from Central and South America, all of which are in need of most urgent conservation action.

“This research highlights the extent of the danger facing many of the world’s primates,” says Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Director of Conservation at Bristol Zoological Society and a world-leading primatologist. “We hope it will focus people’s attention on these lesser known primate species, some of which most people will probably have never heard of, such as the Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur from Madagascar - a species only discovered two years ago - or the Roloway monkey from Ghana and Ivory Coast, which we believe is on the very verge of extinction.

“Some of these animals have tiny populations remaining in the wild and support and action to help save them is vital if we are to avoid losing these wonderful animals forever.”

Madagascar and Vietnam both have large numbers of highly threatened primate species. In Africa, the genus of the red colobus monkeys is under particular threat, as are some of the howler monkeys and spider monkeys of South America. All of these species are relatively large and conspicuous, making them prime targets for bushmeat hunting.

“The purpose of our Top 25 list is to highlight those primates most at risk, to attract the attention of the public, to stimulate national governments to do more, and especially to find the resources to implement desperately needed conservation measures,” says Dr Russell Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and Executive Vice Chair of Conservation International. “In particular, we want to encourage governments to commit to desperately needed biodiversity conservation measures.

“What is more, beyond the great scientific interest of primates, there is increasing evidence that certain species may play a key role in dispersing the seeds of tropical forest tree species that have a critically important role in mitigating climate change - a particularly noteworthy consideration given the upcoming conference of the parties of the climate convention in Paris."

“This report makes scary reading for primatologists and the public alike, and highlights where we as conservationists must focus our attention over the coming years,” says Dr Schwitzer. “However, it also demonstrates the growing importance of collaboration between the international conservation, research and zoo communities in the protection of species and habitats."

“At Bristol Zoological Society we will continue our conservation and research with the aim of increasing the effectiveness of the conservation activities, as well as increasing our understanding of these and other Critically Endangered species.”

Compiled by 63 experts from across the world, the report of the world’s 25 most endangered primates was launched at Singapore Zoo today, November 24, with guests from national and international conservation and research organisations.

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