International primate day

By MSN UK News Conservation International/Haroldo Castro
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Greater bamboo lemur, Madagascar

As its common name implies, the greater bamboo lemur is the largest of Madagascar’s bamboo-eating lemurs. Historical records and sub-fossil remains confirm it was once widespread throughout the island. The greater bamboo lemur is threatened by slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal logging, the cutting of bamboo, and hunting with slingshots. It has vanished from most of its former range and only a few relatively small populations have been documented thus far in the southeast. Hunting and habitat destruction are the presumed causes. The population in Ranomafana National Park is estimated at no more than 250 adult individuals.

Conservation International/Russell A. Mittermeier
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Silky Sifaka (Propithecus candidus), Madagascar

Propithecus candidus is a large, white, rainforest sifaka found only within a small section of northeastern Madagascar. Silky sifakas are the flagship species of a newly proposed World Heritage Site (Marojejy National Park) and are the species that most tourists come to view. Their primary conservation threat appears to be hunting. Habitat disturbance, such as slash-and-burn agriculture, logging of precious woods and fuel-wood, also occurs within and adjacent to the protected areas where they are found. The remaining population may be as low as a few hundred individuals and is unlikely to be larger than a few thousand.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Sahamalaza sportive lemur (lepilemur sahamalazensis)

The Sahamalaza sportive lemur is thought to be strictly limited to the Sahamalaza Peninsula in northwestern Madagascar. Lepilemur sahamalazensis depends on semi-humid forests, of which only a few fragments now remain. Total numbers are unknown, but, taking into account their limited distribution and the small extent of remaining forest cover, they are probably in their low thousands. These animals are easy and defenceless prey for hunters who find their sleeping sites during the day and cut the tree down or climb up to fetch them.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Rondo dwarf galago (galagoides rondoensis) , Tanzania

Weighing approximately 60g, this is the smallest of all galago species. It is distinct from other dwarf galagos in its diminutive size, a bottle-brush shaped tail, its reproductive anatomy, and its distinctive alarm call. The major threat facing this species is loss of habitat. All sites are subject to some level of agricultural encroachment, charcoal manufacture and/or logging. Given current trends in charcoal production for nearby Dar es Salaam, the forest reserves of Pugu and Kazimzumbwi will disappear over the next 10 –15 years.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Roloway guenon (cercopithecus diana roloway), Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire

Along with the white-naped mangabey and Miss Waldron’s red colobus, the roloway guenon is among the three most endangered monkeys of the Upper Guinea forest block and a target species of the relentless bushmeat trade. In Ghana, they have been steadily extirpated from both unprotected and protected areas and the monkey is nearing extinction in that country, if it has not disappeared already.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Pennant’s red colobus monkey (procolobus pennantii), Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea

The endangered Pennant’s red colobus monkey is now found only in a small part of the southwest of the island, within the Gran Caldera and Southern Highlands Scientific Reserve. It is threatened by bushmeat hunting: numbers killed for bushmeat were estimated at 550 and 350 in the 2004 and 2005 respectively, and the population declined by more than 40% between 1996 and 2006.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Tana River red colobus (procolobus rufomitratus), Kenya

The gallery forests of the lower Tana River, Kenya, are home to two Critically Endangered primates, the Tana River red colobus and the Tana River mangabey. Continuing loss and degradation of forest means the populations of the red colobus and the mangabey are believed to have each declined to fewer than 1,000 individuals. Ominously, new threats are now on the horizon with a proposal to establish a large sugar cane plantation in the area. This new plantation is likely to result in a large influx of people and an increase in the demand for forest resources.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Miss Waldron’s red colobus (procolobus badius waldroni), Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire

Miss Waldron’s red colobus is teetering on the very brink of extinction. Primatologists have searched its known range since 1993, but have failed to see a living animal. A single skin found in the possession of a hunter near the Ehy Lagoon in southeastern Côte d’Ivoire in early 2002 raised hopes that at least one population of Miss Waldron’s red colobus still hangs on, but subsequent fieldwork has yielded no evidence of living individuals. If any animals have managed to survive, the numbers must be very small and it will take heroic efforts to preserve them.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Kipunji (rungwecebus kipunji), Tanzania

The discovery of this new species of monkey in 2003 was the first in Africa in 20 years. This monkey is, without doubt, one of the world’s most threatened primates and has been assessed as Critically Endangered. The most serious threat is the destruction of its forest habitat, a process which has proceeded unabated in this area for many years. Without significant improvement in the protection of the Mt. Rungwe-Livingstone Forest, where roughly 85% of the kipunji monkeys are found, this flagship species will have been part of Africa’s known primate diversity for only a brief period in history.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Cross River gorilla (gorilla gorilla diehli), Nigeria and Cameroon

The Cross River gorilla is the most western and northern form of gorilla, and is restricted to the forested hills and mountains of the Cameroon-Nigeria border region at the headwaters of the Cross River. The most recent surveys suggest that between 200 and 300 Cross River gorillas remain. The encroachment of farms, dry-season fires and development activities such as road building are continuing threats to the integrity of gorilla habitat. After several years of awareness-raising by conservationists and researchers, hunting for bushmeat has been reduced to a low level, but it is still a potential threat, as are wire-snare traps set for other animals.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Siau Island tarsier, Indonesia

The Siau Island tarsier is a new, undescribed species that is Critically Endangered and faces an imminent threat of extinction. Specific threats include: a very small geographic range; an even smaller area of occupancy; a high density of humans that habitually hunt and eat tarsiers for snack food (it was once common for people to eat 5ive to ten at a single sitting after hunting them with rifles) and an almost exclusively volcanic habitat. All captive breeding programmes, including several by leading zoos and primate centres, have been dismal failures.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Horton Plains slender loris, Ceylon Mountain slender loris (loris tardigradus nycticeboides), Sri Lanka

Slender lorises are small, nocturnal primates occurring in southern India and Sri Lanka. In the 1960s, W. C. Osman used the loris as the symbol of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka, stating that it, being the most mysterious and rarely seen creature of Sri Lanka’s jungles, was the most apt symbol for a society dedicated to revealing the unknown in nature. It is highly threatened by mining, agricultural encroachment and hunting, and clings to Sri Lanka’s small remaining rain forest patches and chilly highlands (where temperatures may drop to -4°C).

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Pig-tailed langur (simias concolor), Indonesia (Mentawai Islands)

The simakobu monkey is the flagship species for a group of endangered primates endemic to the remnants of forest on the 7,000-km² Mentawai Islands. All of the Mentawai primates are affected by habitat disturbance and hunting. Although hunting appears to be declining and opportunistic, human encroachment and timber removal are increasing. The vast majority of their remaining natural habitat lies outside officially protected areas and could very well be lost in the near future as there is talk of clear cutting in 2008 for oil palm plantations.

Tilo Nadler
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Delacour’s langur (trachypithecus delacouri), Vietnam

During the decades following the discovery of Delacour’s langur in 1930 there was only scanty information on its existence and distribution. The first sightings of live animals were reported in 1987 from Cuc Phuong National Park. The most important factor for the decline in numbers is poaching, which is not primarily for meat, but for bones, organs and tissues that are used in the preparation of traditional medicines. The total population counted in 1999/2000 was about 280 to 320 individuals. A reasonable estimate of the current population indicates numbers no higher than 200 to 250 individuals.

Conservation International/Russell A. Mittermeier
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Golden-headed langur (trachypithecus poliocephalus poliocephalus), Vietnam

The golden-headed langur is probably the most endangered of the Asian colobines. This species only occurs on the Island of Cat Ba in the Gulf of Tonkin, northeastern Vietnam. According to reports of indigenous people, the entire island was previously densely populated by langurs. Hunting has been the sole cause for the dramatic and rapid population decline from an estimated 2,400 – 2,700 in the 1960s to only 53 individuals by 2000. The langurs were poached mainly for trade in traditional medicines.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Western purple-faced langur (semnopithecus vetulus nestor), Sri Lanka

Endemic to Sri Lanka, this langur is restricted to a small area of the wet zone in the west of the country, most of which is threatened due to human activities (crops, infrastructure and industry, settlements, deforestation and forest fragmentation, and hunting). Western purple-faced langurs are highly arboreal and need good canopy cover, and there are possibly less than three forests that can support viable populations, none of which are protected areas set aside for conservation.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Grey-shanked douc (pygathrix cinerea), Vietnam

Grey-shanked douc populations are fragmented and estimated to total 600 – 700 individuals. Their occurrence has been confirmed in eight protected areas. However, hunting, the principal threat to the species, is still a problem inside these parks and reserves. Snares are the most commonly used method since gun confiscation programs were carried out. Often hundreds of traps are installed in trees frequently used by the langur groups, as well as on the ground where they are seen crossing between small forest patches. Trapped animals are often severely injured and mutilated. Forest loss within at least part of the species’ range is attributable to the expansion of agriculture, illegal logging and firewood collection. Almost 10,000ha of forest are destroyed every year in the Central Highlands.

Tilo Nadler
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Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (rhinopithecus avunculus), Vietnam

The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is found only in northern Vietnam. This species was discovered in 1911, collected on perhaps no more than two occasions over the course of the next 50 to 60 years, and subsequently presumed to be extinct by a number of primatologists until it was rediscovered in 1989. Due to massive deforestation and intensive hunting in recent decades, its distribution has become dramatically restricted. Currently, there are only four known locations with recent evidence where Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys occur, and these are completely isolated.

Conservation International/Stephen Nash
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Hainan gibbon (nomascus hainanus), China (Island of Hainan)

In the 1950s there were estimates of more than 2,000 Hainan gibbons on the island of Hainan in 866,000ha of forests across 12 counties. By 1989, the population was reduced to only 21 gibbons in four groups restricted to Bawangling Nature Reserve. A gibbon survey in October 2003 found two groups, and two lone males, comprising a total of 13 individuals. In recent months three newborns and at least one lone female have been observed, bringing the world total to 17 individuals.

Conservational International/Stephen Nash
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Western hoolock gibbon (hoolock hoolock), Bangladesh, India, Myanmar

The western hoolock gibbon occurs in Bangladesh, northeastern India and western Myanmar, west of the Chindwin River. The debilitating threats include habitat encroachment to accommodate ever-growing human populations and immigration; forest clearance for tea cultivation; the practice of jhuming (slash-and-burn cultivation); hunting for food and “medicine”; capture for trade and the degradation of their forests. Some populations surviving in just a few remaining trees are subjected to harassment by locals, lack of food, and are attacked by dogs while attempting to cross clearings between forest patches. Based on habitat loss over the last 30 – 40 years, western hoolock gibbons are estimated to have declined from more than 100,000 to less than 5,000 individuals – a decline of more than 90%.