I remember when I was living in Tanzania in 2008, I stopped by the Wildlife Conservation Society office in Mbeya to learn more about their programs. I was surprised to hear that an entirely new species of monkey (the kipunji—Rungwecebus kipunji) had been discovered in the nearby Southern Highlands only five years before. At the time of my visit, the researchers were just beginning to familiarize the animals with their presence.
But despite the kipunji’s remote habitat and how little we know about them, the species is among the top endangered primates in the world, according to Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2008-2010 (PDF – 14.4 MB).
This publication was announced today at London’s Bristol Zoo by a group of world-renowned primatologists from organizations such as IUCN, the International Primatological Society and CI (represented by CI president Russ Mittermeier).
“The results from the most recent IUCN assessment of the world’s mammals indicate that the primates are among the most endangered vertebrate groups,” said Mittermeier.
According to the IUCN Red List, almost half of the world’s primates are threatened with extinction from a combination of factors, including the destruction of tropical forests, the illegal wildlife trade and bushmeat hunting.
Mittermeier continued, “the purpose of our Top 25 list is to highlight those that are most at risk, to attract the attention of the public, to stimulate national governments to do more, and especially to find the resources to implement desperately needed conservation measures.”
The report is a bit dry (unless you’re a primate geek like me), but it contains beautiful illustrations by Stephen Nash of these rarely-photograped animals, as well as interesting insights about the species.
Without immediate action, species like the kipunji, which only appeared on our radar a few years ago, could vanish just as quickly.