Meet the primate species that are among the most endangered on the planet, and the most in need of conservation measures.
In 2017, the Tapanuli orangutan was discovered in the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. The rust-colored beauties made headlines for becoming the eighth known species of great ape in the world (including us humans). Their discovery was also notable for being the first great ape species to be described to science since the bonobo was discovered in 1929.
Now, just two years later, the Tapanuli orangutan has been bestowed with a much more grim distinction: A spot in the new report, “Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2018-2020.” With fewer than 800 of these new-to-science orangutans left in the wild, it’s going to have to be all hands on deck to keep them from slipping away altogether.
Along with the Tapanuli orangutan, another six primate species from Asia made the list, as well as seven species from Africa, five from Madagascar, and six from the Neotropics. Primates include monkeys and apes, as many people know, but also counts lemurs, lorises, galagos, and tarsiers among its ranks.
The report is compiled by the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, the International Primatological Society, Global Wildlife Conservation and the Bristol Zoological Society – it is a shout-out to the primates facing the most dire threats, as well as a call for conservation measures.
“The inclusion of the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan on the official list of the world’s most endangered primates is not surprising given the existing threats to its small population, but this underscores a tremendous opportunity,” said Dirck Byler, Global Wildlife Conservation’s great ape conservation director and vice chair for the IUCN SSC’s Primate Specialist Group’s Section on Great Apes. “As the home of the Tapanuli orangutan and two other orangutan species, Indonesia has the chance now to become a leader in great ape conservation by implementing the kinds of measures that will not only protect this special animal and its habitat, but that has the potential to positively impact local economies and livelihoods through ecotourism.”
With 43 percent of the world’s primates classified as critically endangered or endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it’s feeling like the time to help them is now.
“This report reveals the bleak prospects of some of the world’s most incredible animals. Despite this, I still have hope that this is not too late,” said Christoph Schwitzer, chief zoological officer at Bristol Zoological Society and IUCN Red List Authority coordinator for the SSC Primate Specialist Group. “There is an unprecedented level of interest in world environmental issues, particularly among the younger generation, many of whom are more inspired, passionate and motivated than ever before to do their part to help make a difference. It is this kind of support, combined with effective conservation action, which is vital if we are to avoid losing these wonderful and charismatic animals forever.”
I highly recommend reading the report (PDF here) – rather than a big pile of depressing data, it is comprised of fascinating profiles of each of the species, complete with photos and illustrations. Kind of like the world’s saddest little animal encyclopedia – but important! And very interesting, and hopefully inspiring.
To help in the mission of bringing awareness to the imperiled stars of the list, here’s the who’s who:
Bemanasy mouse lemur (Microcebus manitatra)
Lake Alaotra gentle lemur (Hapalemur alaotrensis)
James’ sportive lemur (Lepilemur jamesorum)
Indri (Indri indri)
Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)
Rondo dwarf galago (Paragalago rondoensis)
Roloway monkey (Cercopithecus roloway)
Kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji)
White-thighed colobus (Colobus vellerosus) pictured & Niger Delta red colobus (Piliocolobus epieni)
Tana River red colobus (Piliocolobus rufomitratus)
Western chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus)
Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus)
Pig-tailed snub-nose langur (Simias concolor)
Golden-headed langur or Cat Ba langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus)
Golden langur (Trachypithecus geei)
Purple-faced langur (Semnopithecus vetulus)
Gaoligong hoolock gibbon (Hoolock tianxing)
Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis)
Buffy-tufted-ear marmoset (Callithrix aurita)
Pied tamarin (Saguinus bicolor)
Ecuadorian white-fronted capuchin (Cebus aequatorialis)
Olalla Brothers’ titi monkey (Plecturocebus olallae)
Brown howler monkey (Alouatta guariba)
Central American spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi)
Aren’t they amazing? And a reminder; it’s not just these 25 who are risk. As Karen Strier, president of the International Primatological Society and Vilas Research Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says:
“This report helps us to focus on the plight of ALL primates whose futures are in danger. There is still time to take actions to save the most critically endangered primates from extinction and to protect other species from the increasing risks posed by human activities and global climate change.”
“Their problems are our problems,” she adds, “insuring their survival increases our own chances as well.”