Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Half of primates on extinction path, experts say

Almost half of the world's 634 types of primates are in danger of going extinct, some of them literally being hunted to death, experts said Monday after their first comprehensive review in five years.

"We’ve raised concerns for years about primates being in peril, but now we have solid data to show the situation is far more severe than we imagined," Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International and chairman of the primate specialist group at the IUCN wildlife network, said in a statement announcing the findings.

"Tropical forest destruction has always been the main cause, but now it appears that hunting is just as serious a threat in some areas, even where the habitat is still quite intact," he added. "In many places, primates are quite literally being eaten to extinction."

That practice is particularly noticeable in Africa, where a lack of other protein sources has more people turning to so-called bushmeat for food.

Hundreds of experts contributed to the review, which was issued by Conservation International, the IUCN and the International Primatological Society.

Worst in Vietnam, Cambodia
"In both Vietnam and Cambodia, approximately 90 percent of primate species are considered at risk of extinction," the groups said in their joint statement. "Populations of gibbons, leaf monkeys, langurs and other species have dwindled due to rampant habitat loss exacerbated by hunting for food and to supply the wildlife trade in traditional Chinese medicine and pets."