Primates constitute over two hundred species of all living things. These are considered to be the closest relatives to human beings, in the evolution hierarchy. They vary in size, their habitats and their geographical location, whereby they are distributed throughout different geographical locations and habitats like forests, woodlands, savannahs, and high-altitude grasslands. Primates have some distinct characteristics, which include short snout, nails instead of claws, hands and feet with five digits, a relatively large brain as well as an increased reliance on vision rather than scent (Onishi and Namakichi 9).
Because of their widespread distribution in places of habitat, primates are faced by various threats and some of them at the moment even risk becoming extinct. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has already declared several species as endangered, with several species risking extinction while others require strict control to avoid the threat of extinction (Conservation International 2001). Now, out of the three hundred and ninety four species of primates, one hundred and fourteen of them risk extinction. This essay analyses various threats that primate’s face and some possible solutions to these threats.
One of the biggest factors that are contributing to the decline in primates is their loss of habitat (Turner and Lopata 26). Loss of habitat has led to decreased food supply, as well as bringing them into direct conflict with human beings and wild animals as they compete for the existing limited resources. Various causes lead to the destruction of their habitats mainly through clearing of tropical forests. The tropical forests form some of the major habitats for the primates and their destruction has directly posed a threat to them.
Clearing of tropical forests is mainly done for the purpose of increasing the available land for agriculture. These forests have been extensively cleared as the human population increases, and demand for more food has risen. In other places, logging as a form of economic activity also leads to reduction of the total acreage under forests. Many communities living in these areas depend on fuel wood, thus also contributing to destruction of habitats for these primates. This forces them to compete for limited resources with many other species of animals, as well as exposing them to other dangers since they are inappropriately exposed. The trees in these forests are supposed to provide not only food, but also shelter and protection for all the primates and animals that live there.
Clearing tropical forests contribute widely to greenhouse emissions. First of all, it interferes with the carbon cycle and consequently leading to increase in temperatures. The trees that are cut are also used as fuel wood, resulting in the same effect as in the first case. As a result, global warming leads to a further decline in the forest cover. At the current rate, destruction of tropical forests will pose the biggest threat to primates in the next ten years.
The loss of habitat has other implications in that due to lack of food, the primates may end up invading farms that are in the neighbourhood in order to search for food. This is especially the case when their habitats have been encroached by farmers who plant food crops near their habitats. When the primates invade, it may result in the farmers shooting them in order to protect their crops.
Hunting of primates also is a serious threat to these animals (Linda and Agustin 2001). This is done for both subsistence and for commercial purpose. This is more prevalent in Africa and Asia, where the majority of the endangered species of primates are located. Many communities have found congenial delicacy in some species of primates and therefore, capture them for food. With the increase in human population, these primates find themselves faced by greater danger since more people are prompted to hunt. There is always a severe-food shortage in the world every time, and primates as well as other animals bear the brunt for this, as they become easy targets.
Live capture of primates for pets and other purposes is also extremely prevalent and poses a substantial threat. This is extraordinarily common especially in the Asian continent. The worst thing about this is that most of the species that are attractive and which fetch better markets are the one that are rare, adding to the existing problem. These also fetch unusually high prices in the black markets, thus promoting further trade in the endangered species. Some species like the Western Hoolock gibbon found in Bangladesh are highly marketable and therefore, risk extinction through capture.
Hunting also poses some form of indirect threats. In many places, primates are not always targeted by hunters. The main target is usually other species of animals that are preferred by many as a source of food. However, the hunting techniques that are employed to catch these animals are indiscriminate and may capture other animals as well. A trap or a snare meant for a gazelle can also capture a primate in its place. This may lead to a slow and painful death for the animal involved.
There are a number of other distinct threats that face primates, although some of them are not particularly complicated. Diseases and epidemics also are among these threats (Tuxil 11). These may be the ordinary diseases that inflict them or some that maybe transmitted from human beings or other animals. This results in death of many primates in cases where the primate cannot withstand the disease. There are several reported cases where primates have died in large numbers due to disease outbreaks. In some other cases, the diseases are communicable and may be transmitted to human beings, resulting in a need to eliminate the animals that pose a danger to the man beings. This is complicated by the fact that primates have extensive habitats and may therefore; need to interact with a variety of animal species.
To overcome the challenge of habitat loss, several measures need to be put in place to protect tropical forests. These are to ensure that clearing of forests through logging and for agriculture is stopped as soon as possible. In addition, various world bodies need to ensure stricter regulations to control global warming, which is a serious concern in the world today. This can be done through adopting alternative sources of fuel that are environmentally friendly and renewable, like the solar energy.
Hunting of primates for whatever reasons must be stopped. This can be done through proper legislation and tough rules to control the trade on endangered species of primates as well as other animals. This can only be achieved through global partnership by all the involved countries, to ensure that all the loopholes are sealed and no country participates in the trade of endangered species. The communities that actively engage in hunting primates for food should also be sensitized to adopt alternative means of protein rather than hunting of primates.
Establishment of conservation centres for primates would also be a positive step in helping to safeguard the primates. This can help to bring together the endangered species so that they can reproduce and multiply under a controlled environment, leading to an increase in population before they can be released back into their natural habitat. This is one of the most drastic measures that can be used to save the extremely endangered species, as long as various factors are taken into consideration. In addition, it can help scientists and researchers to study their life habits thus gain knowledge on how they can promote conservation efforts. Conservation should be a top priority.
Specialists in animal health also need to engage in a lot of research in order to come up with cures for various illnesses that inflict the primates. This will help to reduce the deaths that are caused by diseases and thus help save some endangered species. Research and study can also be used to determine ways to better their lives and thus reduce the rate of their decline. Other measures to be taken should aim to reduce human-primates conflicts, as well as protecting the areas that are currently inhabited by the primates (Schaik, 20).
Primates are the closest living relatives to human beings, and their survival is essential, not only to humans but also to the environment. One distinct thing about most of the threats that primates face is that they are all directly or indirectly associated with human beings. This means that human beings hold the key to whether they survive or not.
Conservation International. "Primates: Extinction Threat Growing For Mankind's Closest Living Relatives." ScienceDaily, 29 Oct. 2007. Web. 26 Apr. 2011.
Deutsches Primatenzentrum. Primate report, Issues 65-70. Göttingen: E. Goltze, 2006
Linda,W and Agustin F. Primates face to face: conservation implications of human-nonhuman primate interconnections. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Onishi, K. and Nakamichi, M. The History of Primate. Monkeyshines & the Primates: The Study of Primatology. 2001; 12(4): 3-9
Schaik, Carel. Cooperation in primates and humans: mechanisms and evolution. Springer, 2006, p. 20-27
Turner, P and Lopata, P. PRIMATES IN PERIL. Odyssey. 2008);17.4 25- 28
Tuxill, J. Death in the family tree. World Watch. 2007: 10.5 9-13