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More than Half of the World’s Primates Disappearing

20/03/2017

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[00:00.00]
  • Scientists who study primates say that we are moving towards a time when species like gorillas will no longer be found in the wild .
  • [00:15.10]
  • They say Orangutans would be gone too. And Madagascar would lose its lemurs.
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  • Jo Setchell is a primatologist at Durham University in Britain.
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  • She studies primates, the group of mammals that includes gorillas, chimps, monkeys, gibbons, mandrills, and lemurs. And, of course, humans.
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  • "So If we have 60 percent threatened with extinction at the moment, then we will see that number rise and within our lifetimes, within our children's lifetimes, we will eradicate other primates."
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  • In all, there are an estimated 600 different species of primates.
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  • They include the little creature called the mouse lemur, whose body is only about six centimeters long.
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  • Then, there is the largest of the species, the gorilla, weighing up to 250 kilograms.
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  • Primates face one common threat: loss of habitat, the places in nature where they live.
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  • Primatologists like Setchell say human activity is to blame.
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  • "... the major problem is habitat loss and habitat conversion, and essentially it's humans changing primate habitat into human habitat - logging for timber, logging for conversion to agriculture, logging for cattle ranching; anything essentially that destroys tropical forests because primates are largely tropical forest species."
  • [02:08.92]
  • More than half of all primate species are grouped in four countries: Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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  • Paul Garber says each of these countries is working to help protect the primates in their areas.
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  • “But often, there is neither the funds, community support nor in-country expertise to address their conservation problems.”
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  • Madagascar is a good example of these problems, he says.
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  • It is home to over 100 primate species; almost all of them live nowhere else.
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  • And 94 percent of them are endangered.
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  • Ninety percent of the original forests of Madagascar have been cut down, Garber says.
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  • Neither Garber nor Setchell have any easy answers about how to stop this road to extinction.
  • [03:25.44]
  • "We knew that primates were in trouble, but I think even for those of us who work in primate conservation, it was still shocking to discover quite what the scale of the problem is."
  • [03:35.56]
  • They do say that the clearest way is to slow human activity in primates’ habitats.
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  • They also say the decrease is reversible if humans make primate and habitat conservation a top concern.
  • [03:58.89]
  • I’m Anne Ball.
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