5 Aug 2008

Primates threatened with extinction

9:30 pm on 5 August 2008

An international report has found that almost half the world's monkeys and apes are threatened with extinction because of human activity.

According to a survey by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 48% of almost 600 species and subspecies of primates are at risk.

The findings form part of the most detailed survey of the Earth's mammals, which will be published in October.

The union says the main threat is habitat loss, primarily through the burning and clearing of tropical forests. Other threats include hunting of primates for food and the illegal wildlife trade.

The chairman of the union's Primate Specialist Group, Russell Mittermeier, says in many places, primates are quite literally being eaten to extinction.

The survey, involving hundreds of experts, showed that out of 634 recognised species and subspecies, 11% were Critically Endangered, 22% were Endangered, while a further 15% were listed as Vulnerable.

Asia had the greatest proportion of threatened primates, with 71% considered at risk of extinction. The five nations with the highest percentage of endangered species were all within Asia.