A team of 31 primatologists looked at every primate species discovered so far to see how well they are doing. As it turns out, most of them are now facing imminent extinction, say researchers.
According to the study, published in the journal Science Advances, roughly three-quarters of primate species are losing its representatives. Moreover, almost 60 percent face imminent extinction, say the scientists. Primates, from gibbons to gorillas, are now is even worse shape compared to previous decades. Co-author of the survey and senior research scientist at Conservation International, Anthony B. Rylands believes a large number of primates will go extinct within the next 50 years.
Analyzing every single primate species on the planet proved to be a tougher job than anticipated. This is because scientists keep discovering new ones every year. 85 new primate species have been discovered since 2008. As of now, 505 species have been identified worldwide. At least seven species are to be announced this year alone, with the most recent one discovered only last week in China.
So far, deforestation is the main cause that threatens primate species with extinction. However, the researchers identified other risk factors that contribute to primates’ ranks growing ever thinner. Mining and hunting have also been linked with the threat of extinction, say researchers.
West Afrika market, for example, thrives on primate meat. Dr. Rylands says that even though forests have mostly gone untouched, hunters depleted them of primates for profit. Not only locally, but primate meat is also in high demand in China, many believing some body parts have strong healing powers.
As agriculture expands, Amazon forests are being transformed into soybean fields or cattle ranches. In Madagascar, for example, lemurs have been pushed out of their forests to make way for rice paddies.
Scientists say humans are already at fault for driving several primate species extinct. However, researchers cannot tell for sure how many fell victim. According to fossils discovered in Madagascar, the forests there were once homes to 350-pound giant lemurs. Unfortunately, these creatures, along with many others became extinct almost 2,000 years ago, right after humans first arrived there, before modern scientists can lay eyes on them.
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