The Importance of Primate Conservation
While primates are a primary target of conservation NGOs, other species are often targeted as well. These creatures are important because they act as umbrella species for multiple species in their ecosystems. In the last 30 years, however, conservation NGOs have shifted their emphasis from preservation to community-based conservation. Instead of focusing on preservation alone, the organizations are implementing practices that decrease human-wildlife conflict and establish sustainable communities. This approach is proving highly effective in saving the world’s primates.
In addition to conservation efforts, NGOs and academics can contribute to primate online preservation. Many conservation efforts are driven by public concern, and public education can help to spread the word about the importance of primate conservation. For example, it is estimated that approximately 40,000 orangutans live in the wild. Unfortunately, this number is being reduced due to the destruction of their forest habitats in Borneo. Palm oil plantations are threatening the survival of orangutans.
The status of primate populations and species is determined by many criteria. While there are many threats facing primates, they have unique characteristics that affect their survival. Their slow growth rates, long interbirth intervals, and cultural behavior make them especially vulnerable to human and animal populations. The decline of primate populations affects local economies, ecosystems, and humans, among others. In addition, people can make their own small contributions to primate conservation in the context of their everyday lives.
In addition to habitat loss, climate change is a major threat to primates. Earth temperatures have increased by an average of 0.85oC in the past century, with each decade warming more than the previous one. Climate change has multiple consequences for biodiversity, including increasing temperatures and resulting in droughts. Droughts also increase carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, affecting many species. It is important to note that continued threats may lead to a population collapse, making primate conservation extremely difficult.
Another major threat facing primates is hunting. While bushmeat has traditionally been a staple diet for many cultures, commercial hunting has increased the popularity of primate carcasses. The availability of shotguns has increased the volume of carcasses. According to researchers John Fa and colleagues, the global sale of primate carcasses has reached a record high of $2.5 billion annually. While this amount is still relatively small, the problem of illegal trade is escalating.
Human encroachment is another significant threat to primate populations. Deforestation and unsustainable resource extraction in areas with primate habitats can lead to the spread of diseases. Additionally, increased human contact can lead to the introduction of novel pathogens into primate populations. These problems require urgent action in order to prevent a further decline in primate populations. And this is especially true of disease outbreaks. A large yellow fever outbreak, for example, devastated the population of the brown howler monkeys in Brazil.
A variety of cultural traditions and religious practices affect the role of primates in human cultures. In eastern Amazonia, the Awa Guaja consider primates to be an extension of their kinship network and regard them as a source of dietary protein. Similarly, the long-tailed macaque is common in the forests surrounding Hindu temples. During ceremonies, they consume offerings left by human worshipers. Therefore, primate conservation is a global concern.