Experts warn of impending extinction of world's primates

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | Jan. 18, 2017

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The black-and-white ruffed lemur of Madagascar is endangered due to hunting and to habitat loss. Most primates live in regions with high levels of human poverty and inequality, which contributes to the decline of the animals, says Thomas Gillespie, an Emory expert in the disease ecology of primates.

Urgent action is needed to protect the world’s dwindling primate populations, warns a group of 31 leading experts on primate conservation in Science Advances. Sixty percent of the more than 500 primate species worldwide are threatened with extinction, while more than 75 percent have declining populations, the landmark article reports. The authors include scientists and policymakers from the United States, Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa.

“The majority of primate species are endangered now. We are at a turning point where we must take action or lose many species during the next 50 years,” says co-author Thomas Gillespie, an associate professor in Emory University’s Department of Environmental Sciences and an expert in the disease ecology of primates.

“Primates are our closest relatives and make up a large proportion of the mammals of the world,” he adds. “If we lose them, not only do we lose a lot of insights into ourselves, we lose the ecological services that they provide.”

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