Aug 20
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In the News: Lemurs heading towards extinction

Madagascar’s lemurs could be all but wiped out within the next 20 years unless drastic action is taken, according to primatologists.

Black-and-white ruffed lemur portrait

The black-and-white ruffed lemur is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN

Threats to lemurs

All lemur species are endemic to Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island and a global “hotspot” of biodiversity. However, these unique primates are under threat from habitat loss and hunting, and recent assessments have found that an alarming 91% of lemur species should be placed in the IUCN Red List threatened categories. This makes lemurs the world’s most endangered mammal group.

One of the greatest threats to lemurs is widespread deforestation. Decades of logging, mining and agriculture have already destroyed 90% of Madagascar’s forests, confining lemurs to the remaining fragments. In recent years, political instability has compounded the problem, forcing many local people to turn to illegal logging and hunting to survive.

Photo of brown lemur on a tree trunk

The brown lemur, listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN

According to Jonah Ratsimbazafy, a local primatologist, “If continued at this rate of deforestation, we can say that within 20 to 25 years there will be no more forest and thus no more lemurs.”

Lemur conservation strategy

To tackle the issues facing these charismatic primates, the world’s leading primate experts came together this month to draw up a three-year strategy for lemur conservation. This strategy contains 30 action plans for the 30 different priority sites for lemur conservation, and it aims to help with fundraising for individual projects.

According to Dr Russ Mittermeier, President of Conservation International and Chair of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, there are three main actions which will be most effective for lemur conservation in the field: “First working on grassroots projects with local communities so people can make a difference for themselves, secondly supporting eco-tourism projects and thirdly establishing research stations as a permanent facility to protect against loggers and hunters.”

Photo of Verreaux's sifaka about to leap from tree

Like many other lemurs, Verreaux’s sifaka is threatened by habitat loss and hunting

Benjamin Andriamihaja of the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments said, “We try to fund activities that generate revenues, like planting beans, rearing pigs and chickens or developing fish farming, so that peasants stop destroying the forest.”

Hard work is yet to come

Speaking about the new strategy for lemur conservation, Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Head of Research at Bristol Zoo Gardens, said, “The fact is that if we don’t act now we risk losing a species of lemur for the first time in two centuries. The importance of the projects we’ve outlined in this document simply cannot be overstated.”

Photo of Alaotran gentle lemur with young

The Alaotran gentle lemur has a very restricted range and specialised habitat, putting it at high risk of extinction

However, he said that he was an optimist and would not give up on any species of lemur, adding that, “This document shows how well people can work together when species are on the brink. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved here but the hard work is yet to come.”

 

Read more on this story at The Telegraph – Furry lemurs ‘could be wiped out within 20 years’.

Find out more about Madagascar and other Indian Ocean islands.

View more photos and videos of lemurs on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Aug 15
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In the News: Conservation efforts boost numbers of Endangered Chinese monkey

The Endangered Yunnan snub-nosed monkey has received a welcome boost in south-western China thanks to conservation efforts, showing a 50% increase in numbers since the 1990s, according to Chinese state media.

Yunnan snub-nosed monkey image

Hunting is one of the major threats faced by the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey

Primate in peril

Also known as the black snub-nosed monkey, the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey is an inhabitant of south-western China’s high-altitude evergreen forests, where harsh environmental conditions prevail. At elevations between 3,000 and 4,500 metres, these forests suffer extreme weather, with temperatures falling below freezing for several months of the year.

As a result of hunting for food and its pelt, the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey suffered massive declines, coming perilously close to extinction in the 1980s. Since then, authorities have taken action to help save this elusive primate, by enacting a hunting ban, confiscating hunting guns, establishing special protected areas and banning logging.

Yunnan snub-nosed monkey image

The Yunnan snub-nosed monkey is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List

Conservation success

The concerted conservation efforts have not been in vain, with a survey launched last month discovering that there are now more than 3,000 Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys surviving in the high-elevation forests of China’s Yunnan Province and Tibet Autonomous Region. These figures are welcome news, given that there were fewer than 2,000 individuals present in the area in the 1990s. Figures from Yunnan’s Baima Snow Mountain Nature Reserve are particularly encouraging, showing a nine-fold increase compared to numbers in the protected area in 1987.

Read more on this story at Mongabay – Endangered Chinese monkey population recovering.

See more photos and videos of the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

Jun 29
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Endangered Species of the Week: Sumatran orangutan

Photo of Sumatran orangutan with infant

Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii)

Species: Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The name ‘orangutan’ means ‘person of the forest’.

The Sumatran orangutan lives almost exclusively in trees, only very rarely coming down to the ground. This large Asian ape is found in lowland tropical rainforests and swamps in northern Sumatra, and feeds mainly on fruit, although it will also eat leaves, termites, and even occasionally the meat of slow lorises. The Sumatran orangutan is distinguished from the Bornean orangutan by its narrower face, longer beard and lighter fur, and the two species also behave slightly differently. Adult male orangutans are larger than females, and may have large cheek pads on either side of the face. Orangutans are long-lived and breed very slowly, with females only producing an infant around once every eight years, giving them the longest inter-birth interval of any land mammal.

The main threat to the Sumatran orangutan is the loss of vast areas of forest due to illegal logging, mining and conversion to agriculture, particularly oil palm plantations. Forests have also been fragmented by roads, and forest loss and fragmentation make orangutans more vulnerable to being captured for the illegal pet trade. This species’ slow reproductive rate makes it very difficult for its populations to recover from any losses. The Sumatran orangutan is fully protected by law and is listed on Appendix I of CITES, which bans international trade in this species. However, the key to saving this charismatic primate lies in protecting its remaining forest habitat. A major stronghold for the Sumatran orangutan lies in the Leuser Ecosystem Conservation Area, and projects are also underway to rescue and rehabilitate orangutans that have been orphaned or confiscated, and, if possible, to return them to the wild.

 

Find out more about orangutan conservation at the Orangutan Foundation and Great Apes Survival Partnership.

You can also find out more about Sumatra and its wildlife on the ARKive Indian Ocean islands page.

See images and videos of the Sumatran orangutan on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

May 4
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Endangered Species of the Week: Eastern gorilla

Photo of female mountain gorilla

Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei)

Species: Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The eastern gorilla is divided into two subspecies, the eastern lowland or Grauer’s gorilla, and the mountain gorilla.

Together with the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), the eastern gorilla is the largest of the living apes. Gorillas have characteristically robust, heavy bodies and dark, shaggy coats, and males are much larger than females. The eastern gorilla lives in stable family groups, led by a dominant ‘silverback’ male, and females in the group give birth around once every three to four years. The eastern lowland gorilla is found in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the mountain gorilla in two isolated populations in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The eastern gorilla faces a range of threats, including snares set for other wildlife, as well as deliberate poaching for bushmeat or to take infants as pets. This species is also surrounded by rapidly increasing human populations, and habitat destruction, illegal cattle grazing and timber extraction are also serious problems, as is political unrest in some areas. Fortunately, the eastern gorilla occurs largely in protected areas and a number of conservation programmes are underway to protect it. Mountain gorillas have been studied for decades, and in some places are protected by armed guards. Visits by tourists pose a risk of disease transmission to the gorillas, but these charismatic primates are recognised as an important source of tourist revenue, which may help to protect them.

Find out more about gorilla conservation at the International Gorilla Conservation Programme and the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

See images and videos of the eastern gorilla on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Apr 30
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Spotlight on: Chimpanzees

Disneynature’s latest film Chimpanzee,  which was exclusively previewed on the opening night of Wildscreen Festival 2012, is coming to cinemas across the UK on May 3rd.  Chimpanzee follows the remarkable story of Oscar, a baby chimp whose life takes a surprising turn after he is left all alone following a confrontation with a rival band of chimps. Here at the ARKive office to celebrate the release of this film we thought we would take a closer look at chimpanzees, our closest living relative.

A young chimpanzee

Along with the pygmy chimp and bonobo, the chimpanzee is the closest living relative to humans, and is estimated to share 98 percent of our genes. Chimpanzees are very social animals living in stable communities which range in size from 15 to 150 members. Male chimpanzees stay in the same community for their entire lives where a strict linear hierarchy is employed. 

Group of sleeping chimpanzees

Chimpanzees feed mainly on fruit, but when this is scarce they supplement their diet with leaves, seeds and insects. Another favourite food of chimpanzees is meat, with groups cooperating together to hunt and kill monkeys. Chimpanzees are highly intelligent animals and are one of few species known to use tools. They use sticks to remove ants or termites from their nests and stones to crack open nuts. Chimpanzees are also known to use leaves as sponges to absorb drinking water.

Chimpanzee using a rock to crack a palm nut

Female chimpanzees normally give birth to one infant which develops slowly. Young chimpanzees ride on their mothers back, gripping on to her fur, until the age of two and are not weaned until around four years old, although they retain strong ties with their mother after this. 

Female chimpanzee with her baby

Chimpanzees will often spend hours grooming each other, removing dirt, insects and seeds from each others fur. This not only keeps individuals dirt free and healthy, but it also helps to strengthen and maintain bonds between group members.

Chimpanzees grooming each other

To find out more visit ARKive’s chimpanzee species profile. 

Jemma Pealing
Media Researcher

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