Monday, January 30, 2017

Primates Under Threat of Extinction

More:  An example of why primate populations the world over are declining to the point of extinction (see previous post below) comes to us from Thailand.  Pileated gibbons (Hylobates pilietus) living in Thap Lan National Park are being hunted and killed for meat by illegal loggers harvesting prized Siamese rosewood.  Exports to China from the Mekong region between 2000 and 2014 are valued at $2.4 billion.  Rangers have documented the grizzly slaughter.  Thap Lan is supposed to be a sanctuary for endangered wildlife and is part of a larger forest complex designated a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2005.  The DPKY complex is the last remaining significant tract of lowland rainforest in Southeast Asia.  Because of the hunting pressure, the gibbons are calling less and less.  Their singing makes them vulnerable to hunters who locate them by their calls.  Populations are believed to have declined by 50% since 1970.  The last census in 2005 put gibbon population at 14,000.  They are on the ICUN's red list of endangered species.

Gibbons are almost totally arboreal. They live in mated pairs with their offspring.  Offspring are produced one at a time and the young stay with their mother for two years. Gibbons are sexually dimorphic: males are all black with white eyebrows and females are white with black underparts [photo credit: MongaBay]  They feed on fruit about 60% of the time.  Selected leaves and insects make up the rest of their diet.  Their locomotion in the canopy is graceful and impressive sometimes covering gaps of over nine meters.  But most spectacular are their loud duets which can last minutes.  The singing is believed to reinforce pair bounding and delineate their territory from others.

Thailand has made efforts to suppress poaching, but it is difficult and dangerous work.  Poachers trek deep into the rainforest to find rosewood for days at a time and they are well-armed.  A single tree could be as much as $1 million.  Firefights between poachers and rangers are common. In 2015 seven rangers were killed trying to stop the "blood timber" trade.   Hasadin are elite forest rangers formed in 2015 to stop the rosewood trade, but conservationists warn that the trade is increasing.  There is only one deep forest pocket of the timber left in Thailand.  The poachers leave a trail of body parts in their obsession to cut Hongmu timber.

{25.01.17}An assessment of the world's primate populations show that humans are running out of time to save their nearest relatives from extinction.  Of the recognized 504 species, sixty percent are in danger of extinction.  Thirty anthropologists published their findings in Science Advances.  It is no secret that anthropomorphic pressures are causing their decline in numbers.  Habitat loss due to development and poaching for bushmeat and pet trade are the main drivers.

The study authors relied on existing data compiled from research, the ICUN's Red List and the United Nations in an effort to gain a global understanding of primate populations and the threats they face.  Unsurprisingly Asian primates are in the worst situation.  The global demand for palm oil has stripped rainforest habitats bare.  The two species of orangutan still extant are on the brink of extinction in the wild as a result.  Madagascar is also rapidly loosing its forest canopy putting 90% of its 100 primate species at risk.  The study estimates about 7722 square miles of forest cover have been loss.  The remaining forests are heavily fragmented.  An area three times the size of France has been appropriated for agriculture.  As more and more humans occupy the planet, there is less room for wild creatures who need undisturbed nature to survive.  Indeed, the authors found the many causes of primate decline are intimately related to human social problems such as pervasive poverty in those areas where they co-habituate.

The solutions are there for everyone to see: stop forest devastation; cease trading in animals and their body parts; find ways to sustainably feed the world's human population; and control the increase of human populations.  It is the implementation of these solutions in a human society wedded to a profit economic model that is difficult.  Time is running out for our cousins.  If we want them to remain with us on Earth, the mind-set of future human generations must be changed and permanently.