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Nonhuman primates, our closest biological relatives, play important roles in the livelihoods, cultures, religions, and in the ecological balance of forests. They directly contribute to regenerate tropical forest and maintain a healthy ecosystem. Many seeds will never be dispersed without the help of primates like chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, or gorillas. They are prey, predator, and mutualist species in food webs and thereby influence ecosystem structure, function, and resilience. An important key fact is that primates are closely linked to the diversification and spread of angiosperms (plants that have flowers and produces fruits like herbaceous plants, shrubs, grasses, and most trees), a principal source of food (pollen, nectar, fruits, and seeds) for countless animals including humans. The loss of most primate species including their rarefaction in the wild due to overhunting and diseases pauses a crucial issue for many plants upon life finds vital support.

Many primates, with their highly frugivorous diet and their relatively large size, enables them to disperse small and large seeds over long distances, allowing forest regeneration. In the absence of those seeds dispersed by primates, plant populations can dramatically change and decline. For example, Madagascarís lemurs allow dispersal of large seeds producing trees, and lemur extinction will have a profound effect on the fate of certain Malagasy tree species. In Asia, the hunting of gibbons in northern Thailand has had a negative effect on the demography of the lapsi tree, which depends on gibbons to disperse its seeds. In western Africa, about 50 percent of the plants whose seeds are dispersed by primates have economic or cultural utility to human communities. Therefore, primate conservation has a direct impact on the local human food security.

Conservation needs for primates

Sixty percent of primate species are now threatened with extinction and seventy percent have declining populations. Protecting primates and their habitats is a crucial work of Endangered Species International.

The need to maintain large forest
Most primates need large with little disturbance natural forest. Fragments, logged forests, agroecosystems, and urban areas are unlikely to be a sustainable habitat for most species due to hunting, further habitat reduction and fragmentation, reduced carrying capacity, parasite and disease transmission from humans and domestic animals, dog predation, human-primate conflict due to crop raiding, isolation, and continued changes in land use.

The need to stop deforestation for crops
Global market demands for nonarboreal (for example, soybeans, sugar cane, and rice) and arboreal crops (for example, oil palm and natural rubber), livestock (particularly cattle), and tropical hardwoods have resulted in a process of rapid and widespread industry-driven deforestation in the Neotropics, mainland Africa, Madagascar, and Asia.

Increasing global demand for oil palm products is a major driver of recent severe declines in Sumatran and Bornean orangutan (Pongo abelii and Pongo pygmaeus, respectively) numbers and a serious risk for African apes because large segments of existing populations occur outside protected areas like documented by Endangered Species International. Moreover, future oil palm development is likely to threaten forested areas in South America and Africa. ESI pushes for a sharp and fast reduction of use of Palm oil. Various companies have already stopped using palm oils, but the trend needs to intensify quickly so forest is no longer destroyed.

The need to stop illegal poaching of primates
About 126 primate species (total of 505 species worldwide) are directly affected by illegal poaching. Nearly 10,000 chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, tarsiers and lorises are illegally killed or stolen from the wild each year. Humans have targeted endangered primates directly through practices likes hunting and trapping to participate in the illegal wildlife trade. Demand for such illegal goods has spiked thanks to an increasingly globalized market.

ESI high ratings for our work saving primates

You can feel confident that your donation will be put to good use. Endangered Species International consistently receives high charity ratings from Great Non-profits and Guide Star. ESI continues to use only 98 percent of our budget to save and protect directly endangered species and their habitats. Join us for greater impacts!


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