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Monkey World News

Primates on the Brink

7:00pm Thursday 18th February 2010

 
SAY hello to the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. And the cross river gorilla. Because very soon they may be wiped from the face of the earth, the victims of hunting and habitat destruction, to be made into medicine or turned into someone’s dinner.

All primates are under pressure.

But, according to the Primate Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are 25 sub-species which are hanging on by a thread.

In addition to the above two, there is the brown spider monkey of South America, the northern sportive lemur of Madagascar, and the wonderfully-named bat-eared, rondo dwarf galago from eastern Africa.

In a last, desperate bid to save them, the Primate Specialist Group has launched an international rescue campaign.

“No primate is entirely free from danger; but the few highlighted in this report are those whose very existence is in doubt,” they say.

“Each one named is almost lost – each an entire race of beings, now reduced to a tattered remnant: two or three dozen in the worst of cases.”

The trouble stretches from the Atlantic Forest of Brazil to the monsoon slopes of Madagascar to the mountains of south-west China. “These primates are caught between fading hope and hard oblivion,” says the group’s report.

“And if through our failure of action they should cease to exist, we will have lost our nearest companions – and a part of ourselves – from what wilderness remains.”

Stirring stuff. But why should we care? After all, if today is the first you’ve ever heard of the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey then would you mind, would you even have noticed, if it had disappeared?

Dr Alison Cronin, of Monkey World near Wool, rescues primates who have been snatched from the wild to be pets, props for photographers or performing circus animals. Among these rescued animals are some of the primates on the list of the worst-endangered 25.

And she knows why saving these endangered species matters.

“I look into their eyes daily,” she says. “With the work we do our focus is on the individuals that we rescue and rehabilitate, so our passion is a slightly different angle to the conservationists. We are dealing with the refugees of the illegal trade or those who have been pushed from their habitat into the human habitat.

“The individuals we take on are very needy so we do spend an awful lot of time trying to work out if they are upset or have a problem we can address and it does make you realise that the primates do share all of our same emotions,” she says.

“They have fear, they have empathy they have love and compassion and they also suffer from sorrow and grief and bereavement and we see that every day here at the park, so it does make you feel more akin to their needs.”

Dr Cronin believes there are other, equally important reasons why we should care about animals we’ve never heard of and are probably never going to see.

“As a biologist and conservationist I would say it’s just as important to save a monkey as it is to save a certain species of rainforest ant,” she says.

“Habitats are being destroyed around the world on a continental-type basis, many species of animal are facing extinction now and perhaps it is that the IUCN are hoping people will feel empathy to a species that’s more closely related to them than an ant.

“But as species go extinct it’s a warning call and alert to the rest of the world that things are not right.”

So what can Daily Echo readers do to save the endangered primates?

Dr Cronin is clear.

“Make sure the wood you buy carries the Forest Stewardship Scheme’s sustainable mark, to ensure it doesn’t come from rainforests.

“And try to buy food that uses sustainable palm oil because it’s for palm oil that many of the rainforests are cut down.”

And readers can support and sponsor primates at Monkey World, home to two critically endangered cotton-top tamarins, rescued from the illegal UK pet trade, and which only yesterday rehabilitated eight pygmy slow loris back into the wild.

 

ON THE LIST: The Siau Island tarsier, which is found in Indonesia

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