Humans eating monkeys into extinction

August 5th, 2008 - 8:54 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 5 (IANS) Humans are eating their closest relatives into extinction, particularly in Southeast Asia, alarmed conservationists have revealed. Nearly half of the world’s 634 species of monkeys, apes and other primates are in danger of going extinct, the world’s top experts in primates were told at a meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland.

According to new data released by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at the 22nd International Primatological Society, 303 of the primates species face the possibility of extinction in the world, while 69 species are critically endangered.

“Tropical forest destruction has always been the main cause, but now it appears that hunting is just as serious a threat in some areas, even where the habitat is still quite intact,” said Russell A. Mittermeier, chairman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Primate Specialist Group.

“In many places, primates are quite literally being eaten to extinction,” he added.

In Cambodia - the country with the worst record - 90 percent of the native primate species are struggling to survive, partly because they are hunted as ingredients for Chinese traditional medicine.

The figure for Vietnam is 86 percent, Indonesia 84 percent, Laos 83 percent and China 79 percent.

“What is happening in Southeast Asia is terrifying,” said Jean-Christophe Vié, deputy head of the IUCN Species Programme. “To have a group of animals under such a high level of threat is, quite frankly, unlike anything we have recorded among any other group of species to date.”

Populations of gibbons, leaf monkeys, langurs and other species have dwindled due to rampant habitat loss exacerbated by hunting for food and to supply the wildlife trade in traditional Chinese medicine and pets, said the researchers, whose findings are to be made public in October.

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