The number of lemur species to appear in the 2016-2018 edition of Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates has doubled to six, a testament to just how precarious the survival prospects are for many of Madagascar’s endemic primates.
The report, published once every two years, includes findings compiled by the world’s leading primate conservationists based on expert knowledge of all 702 primate species across Africa, Madagascar, Asia and the Neotropics. It reveals the bleak prospects of primate species, some well-known and others less so, that are in danger of extinction from the relentless destruction of their habitats, illegal wildlife trade and commercial bushmeat hunting.
Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Deputy Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Primate Specialist Group and lead editor of the current report said, “This report makes for alarming reading. It is vital that we use it to highlight the desperate conservation need for so many primate species, many of which are on the very brink of being lost to extinction.
We hope it will draw attention to the plight of each of the 25 highlighted species. Support and conservation action to help save them is vital if we are to avoid losing these wonderful and charismatic animals forever”.
Five of the six lemur species in this edition are targeted by the SOS Lemurs initiative, which has funded 28 lemur projects to date, all aligned to the lemur conservation strategy published by the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Primate Specialist Group in 2014. This includes four Critically Endangered species – the Alaotra Reed Lemur (Hapalemur alaotrensis), Aye Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), Perrier’s Sifaka (Propithecus perrieri) and James' Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur jamesorum) – as well as the Endangered Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta), which was estimated to number several hundreds of thousands two decades ago but could now be down to the very low thousands because of the illegal pet trade and the loss of their forest habitat in Madagascar. These and other species on this edition of Primates in Peril which have been supported by SOS funded projects are featured in the photo gallery above.
The species featured on the Primates in Peril list changes with each edition not because the situation for previously listed species has improved. Instead, some species slide ever closer to oblivion due to increasing extinction pressures. This gives primate experts reason to highlight those species in more urgent need of attention and conservation action by featuring them on the list. The inclusion of Ring-tailed Lemurs in this edition is an example of this. Their inclusion also highlights just how rare some primate species are becoming and in such a short space of time.
Dr Russell Mittermeier, who has long chaired the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Primate Specialist Group, said, “Non-human primates are the most endangered larger group of mammals and one of the most endangered larger groups of vertebrates overall. If you took all the remaining individuals of the 25 Most Endangered Primates list, you wouldn’t fill the seating of a large football stadium.”
In fact, 62 per cent of the world’s 702 primate species and subspecies are considered Threatened, and 42 per cent are listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered, some of which are down to a few dozen or a few hundred individuals. Yet more than 90 per cent of known lemur species are classified as Threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species ™ – making them the most threatened group of primates on the planet.
Their survival depends on sustainable conservation solutions that address many interrelated development and environmental challenges facing Madagascar’s communities. SOS Lemurs helps support and coordinate locally based conservation groups to achieve those aims in the most effective way.
In partnership with donors, species experts and civil society organisations, SOS stands ready to apply its cumulative knowledge and experience through newly developed SOS initiatives to help support the other primate species groups that also featured on this unfortunate shortlist.