Threatened Primates Can Swing Back If We Let Them
With only 60 individuals left in northern Madagascar, the northern sportive lemur is on the brink of extinction. Worldwide, more than half of all primates are endangered. If any did die out, their disappearance could alter their ecosystems in unpredictable ways, with unknown consequences for other species, including humans.
But as well as being potential victims, humans are also the main cause of the decline, since their expansion eats away at the habitat primates need to survive.
A blue-eyed black lemur, which is critically endangered, in the forests of Madagascar (Photo: Nora Schwitzer)After the UN climate talks last December, the push towards scaling up climate response efforts emphasised the need to conserve the world’s forests as ‘carbon sinks’. Such wild areas also hide a treasure trove of animal biodiversity, entangled with indigenous people’s lives. Yet the animals living in forests are often ignored by global policies, which mostly focus on carbon reduction. Primates are the first victims of this neglect.
The northern sportive lemur is among the most endangered primates as its habitat range is extremely reduced. Even a small natural disaster could wipe it out. Although saving such species may seem hopeless, some experts think otherwise.
“These species can bounce back,” says Christoph Schwitzer, vice-chair of the Primate Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission. “We cannot give up on them. As long as th