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A Very Real Threat

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Of the world's 394 primate species, 114 -- or nearly a third -- are threatened with extinction, says the World Conservation Union.

"You could fit all the surviving members of the 25 [most endangered] species in a single football stadium, that's how few of them remain," said Russell A. Mittermeier, a primate specialist and president of Conservation International. "The situation is worst in Asia, where tropical-forest destruction and the hunting and trading of monkeys puts many species at terrible risk."

The latest list of 25 most endangered primates has 11 each from Asia and Africa, and three from South and Central America. It includes well-known primates like the Sumatran orangutan of Indonesia and the Cross River gorilla of Cameroon and Nigeria.

Habitat loss due to the clearing of tropical forests for agriculture, logging and fuel continues to be the major factor in the declining number of primates, according to the report.

Another major threat, hunting, has nearly wiped out four types of primates in Vietnam, including the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey, said Barney Long, a conservation biologist.

The news is not all bad. Nine primates from the last report, in 2004, are no longer threatened.

-- Michael Casey, Associated Press

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