Scary news sometimes comes in bunches. That's exactly what's happened this week.
First, a detailed study led by Lars Laestadius and researchers at the University of Maryland found that "Intact Forest Landscapes" -- the world's surviving areas of unfragmented old-growth forests -- have declined by 7 percent since 2000.
This map tells a lot of the story:
Second, a comprehensive assessment of global primate conservation has just appeared, led by Alejandro Estrada at Mexico's National Autonomous University (UNAM).
Some of its more jolting conclusions:
- Of 504 primate species worldwide, around 60 percent are threatened with extinction and 75 percent have declining populations.
- Primates are getting it from all sides -- from deforestation, habitat fragmentation, logging, hunting, infrastructure expansion, emerging diseases, and the global pet trade. This picture, from the article, tells a lot of that story:
- Primates are unfortunate to live primarily where human populations are large and growing fastest. This underscores the need for concerted conservation efforts in their critical habitats.
- Tropical crops such as oil palm and rubber plantations are important threats to primates. Unfortunately, these crops are expanding rapidly; for instance, oil palm already dominates much of tropical Asia and looks set to expand dramatically in Africa and Latin America.
- Hunting and illegal trade is another giant threat. Asia appears to dominate the global trade in endangered primate parts -- often for traditional products, foods, or medicines.
- Many primates are being hunted or killed for other reasons at rates that are far beyond what their populations can sustain. For instance, in Nigeria and Cameroon, a survey of 89 rural markets found evidence of some 150,000 primates being sold for bush-meat annually.
Primates are our closest cousins on Earth, and if the planet can't sustain them then does it bode well for the rest of us? A great challenge for humanity is to learn to live side-by-side with nature, not to drive it into oblivion.