According to the most recent updates to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 54%, more than half of the world’s known 633 primate species are now threatened with extinction. Lemurs alone are seeing a 91% extinction threat across 103 species and subspecies, which is the highest threat ever recorded for a vertebrate animal.
The problem with the phenomenon of more and more primates being pushed towards extinction is that there isn’t a single cause that can be dealt with quickly and efficiently. Hunting plays a part, but so does land development, so does underfunding for preservation efforts. Reversing this trend is something that involves effort on all fronts, it is not a quick-fix scenario.
IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group Chairholder and Conservation International president Dr. Russell Mittermeier reminds us that the primate extinction threat is worrisome for more than just the threat to primates themselves. Indeed, primates are primary seed dispersers, their droppings rich with fruit remains. Regarded as a flagship animal in the rainforest, a species of primate going extinct could well lead to the endangerment or extinction of numerous other lifeforms, not least the plants they disperse and the animals that rely on those plants to thrive.
Luckily, the endangered species list has been proven to work in some cases. The Greater Bamboo Lemur in Madagascar has been taken off of the list thanks to efforts made following the species listing. While any story involving the word “extinction” is going to come with a dose of doom and gloom, the fact of the matter is that by making sure that people know what’s at stake, but publicising the problems these animals face and working to solve them, wildlife lovers can, in fact, make a difference. Whether through training and hands on help or making donations to the right causes, “save the rainforest” is more than just a cute slogan.