Primates like lemurs, langurs and other species of monkeys, along with apes like the mountain gorilla made the list. These animals are being threatened by the loss of their habitat - tropical jungles being leveled for lumber or agricultural growth - in addition to being hunted for food or for the illegal wildlife trade.
Several species are standing on the brink of extinction, such as the Madagascar's northern sportive lemur, of which there are only 19 left in the wild. More than half of the world's 633 primate species are at risk of extinction.
"Lemurs are now one of the world's most endangered groups of mammals,
after more than three years of political crisis and a lack of effective
enforcement in their home country, Madagascar," said Christoph
Schwitzer of the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation. "A similar crisis is happening in Southeast Asia, where
trade in wildlife is bringing many primates very close to extinction."
However, there are some success stories that alter the balance sheet somewhat. Thanks to conservation efforts, several species - like India's lion-tailed macaque or Madagascar's greater bamboo lemur - have been brought back from the edge and the world has not lost a single primate species to extinction so far this century. But we are very close to having that happen to some of these threatened species if decisive action is not taken.
So, there is a catastrophe looming, we have made some progress, but there is much more to be done.
However, progress can be painfully slow. In February of 2010, the IUCN issued a very similar report - listing 25 threatened primates, again primarily in Africa and Southeast Asia. The small primates, like lemurs, were particularly at risk. But, as with the current report, there were some bright spots regarding species whose numbers were increasing due to conservation efforts. The two reports were eerily similar.
It would seem there is a tug of war taking place in the jungles of some of our richest areas in terms of biodiversity. Loses are being challenged by some gains, keeping the score at a sort of ecological draw. The question is what will it take to significantly push the score in favor of the primates?