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New Report Says Future Of Planet's Primates Is Uncertain

Jan 19, 2017

A Yale anthropologist and dozens of other researchers from around the world warn that about 60 percent of earth's primates are at risk of extinction. It's dire news for our closest biological relatives.

There are more than 500 species of non-human primates scattered all over the world. Yale anthropologist Eduardo Fernandez-Duque said that can make conservation tricky.

"You're talking conservation of orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra and it's a completely different story from the problems of conservation of owl monkeys in Argentina," he said.

Writing in the journal Science Advances, Fernandez-Duque and his co-authors looked at peer-reviewed population data gathered all around the world and at databases from the United Nations.

They concluded about 75 percent of earth's primate species are on the decline - and about 60 percent are now threatened with extinction.

The reasons are many, but researchers write humans are to blame through things like farmland growth, logging, mining, and illegal hunting - just to name a few.

Fernandez-Duque hopes the bad news spurs more local conservation efforts. "It's opening channels of dialog," he said. "It's allowing us to schedule meetings with wildlife authorities. So it's priming the ground for things to happen locally."

And while there aren't any wild primates in Connecticut, Fernandez-Duque said he hopes the stark numbers spur more students here to take an interest in biology, ecology, and just exploring the environment around them.