Endangered Primates: A Race Against Time

Endangered primates: a race against time

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More than half of the primate species around the world are at risk of extinction, and it’s time we stood up and took notice of this dire situation. While 60% are at risk, as many as 75% of all primate species are in some sort of decline. 

Primates around the world are losing their habitat and being hunted for food or poached for the illegal pet trade. It’s thought that we could lose many of our beloved primate species over the coming quarter of a century if no action is taken.

Common Threats Facing Primates

Common threats facing primates

With more than 300 species, primates are the third most diverse order of mammals, falling only behind bats and rodents. However, they face many threats and, if these are not taken care of, the number of species could decline dramatically.

Habitat Destruction

Habitat destruction is one of the leading causes of the decline in primate populations around the world. There are several reasons that their habitat is being destroyed but one of the most common is agriculture. In fact, it’s thought that around 76% of all habitat loss is down to humans clearing the land for farming.

Logging is another issue that results in the loss of precious habitat for these creatures, and deforestation for the harvest of things like exotic wood, rubber, and palm oil, particularly in Africa, all play a role. 

Humans are also clearing forests to create access routes and roads as well as expanding their settlements and developing cities. In one area of the Philippines where gold mining is taking place, it’s thought that the industry will be served by an additional 15.5 miles (25 km) of roads that run straight through primate habitat resulting in fragmentation. 

With the demand for fuel growing ever higher, industries are further encroaching on the habitat of various primates. One example of this is the Stubbs Creek Forest Reserve in Nigeria. Despite being a protected area, deforestation has taken place to make way for a new oil refinery.


One of the biggest human threats to our primate species is hunting. They’re often hunted as bush meat, the trading of which is very high in western and central Africa. Here, this is one of the biggest threats to gorillas as their meat is considered to be prestigious and eating it is something of a status symbol.

The body parts of primates are often taken as collectibles. This is a major problem for the mountain gorilla whose hands, head, and feet are in high demand by collectors. Moreover, body parts are often used in traditional medicine, although efforts are in place to arrest culprits. 

And it isn’t just the locals that hunt these animals, even westerners have been taking primates from the wild to use in scientific and medical research, mainly in the testing of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.


Just like humans, primates can be exposed to diseases, and sometimes these can be detrimental to the survival of their species. In many cases, these diseases are transmitted by humans as well as other animals. What’s more, the potential for animal-human disease spillover is only growing as humans encroach on primate territory; just like an ebola-like disease that threatens the macaque population.

More worrying is the fact that many of the most recent human pandemics are diseases that can all be passed onto primates. Things like HIV are a serious risk to the chimp communities, and this isn’t the only disease that can be passed between species in a process known as zoonotic disease transmission.

In a lot of situations, primates simply do not have strong enough immune systems to fight disease, which is why they often become fatal.

Climate Change

Climate change is impacting animals, plants, and even humans all over the planet, and primates are no exception. One of the main issues is the rising temperatures which are altering the habitat of primate species. The new world monkeys in South America have been reported to be particularly vulnerable to these changes and, as a result, many species could face extinction. 

With climate change comes alterations in the availability of water, food, and other resources. Without these essential things, many primate species will struggle to survive.

Another issue linked to climate change is that many arboreal species have been seen to be coming down from the trees in response to the rising temperatures; it’s thought that 86% of primates will experience a 3-degree temperature rise in the coming years. They’ll make their descent in order to look for water and food but this puts them at risk of predation.

Exotic Pet Trade

Primates are often poached for the illegal pet trade despite the fact that many do not do well in captivity. The tarsier, for example, has been reported to become so distressed in captivity that it will beat its head against the cage to kill itself!

People have developed a love for exotic pets, and it’s no wonder since there are so many beautiful species. But they belong in the wild, and the more we take them, the more numbers are depleted. For example, in Brazil, native marmosets are being pushed to extinction because of pet monkeys.

Importance of Primates

Importance of primates

Primates are incredibly important for many reasons. Without them, humans would notice a marked difference in many areas, such as ecology, medicine, and tourism.

Ecological Benefits

Did you know that the chimpanzee is an important seed disperser of the Saba senegalensis plant? Not only is this an important food resource for the chimps but it’s also often harvested by humans. Without these primates to disperse the seeds, there would be a risk that the plant would not survive.

And chimps aren’t the only primates playing this important role. Many primate species are considered to be keystone species purely because of their fruit-eating ways and the positive influence this has on the ecological community. 

Economic Value

Humans have long been fascinated by primates and will pay good money to observe them in the wild. Tourism in areas where there are primate populations can help to support the local area as well as educate people about these animals. The Rwandan gorilla tours have been an excellent example of how tourism can benefit both humans and animals. 

The money that is earned through this tourism not only helps to support the local community but also goes towards conservation projects to protect endangered primate species. Of course, ecotourism has to be done responsibly otherwise it could have a negative impact.

Assists with Medical Research

One of the main benefits of using primates in medical research is that they have a very similar biological and physiological makeup to humans. The chimpanzee has 98% of the same DNA as us, which allows scientists to get a very good idea of how humans may respond to certain medicines, treatments, and practices.

One interesting study using monkeys has shown that symptoms resulting from brain injuries could actually be ‘turned off’ using electrical currents to stimulate certain parts of the body.


Primates are among some of the most intelligent animals on the planet and, as such, they can teach us a lot. Observing them allows scientists to understand how intelligence, social behavior, and communication has evolved over millions of years.

What’s more, by studying these amazing creatures, we are able to learn more about ecology and biology.

Primate Species on the Brink of Extinction

Many primates are facing extinction because of a variety of factors such as habitat loss, climate change, and human interference. Let’s talk about some of those that are most at risk.

1. Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)

The chimpanzee is listed on the IUCN Red List as endangered, and it’s reported that numbers are decreasing.

Humans have long had an affectionate relationship with chimpanzees; these are among some of the most intelligent primates on the planet. In the wild, they’re found in Central Africa in the tropical forests, but many are kept in captivity all over the world.

Chimps can measure up to 37 inches (95 cm) in height, but when they stand fully erect, they may be as tall as 5.6 feet (1.7 meters). Those kept in captivity are usually larger than wild chimps, and males are always larger than females.

In the wild, chimpanzees live in large groups that could number up to 150. They’re very sociable animals and often form bonds with humans, but that could be because we share up to 98% of the same DNA! However, they can be very aggressive, especially in the wild, where males will fight to the death.


The chimpanzee is listed on the IUCN Red List as endangered, and it’s reported that numbers are decreasing. It’s estimated that there are around 250,000 individuals left in the wild, and they face several threats.

One of the primary threats to the chimp is habitat loss caused by human development. Humans are cutting down areas of forest and using it for agriculture and buildings, encroaching on the chimp’s natural habitat. Moreover, many humans actively hunt these primates for their meat.

Disease is also an issue for these animals, and the 2002 ebola breakout was also reported to have had several chimpanzee fatalities.

2. Red-Shanked Douc (Pygathrix nemaeus)

In the last 30 years alone, the population of red-shanked doucs have decreased by as much as 80%.

A species of old-world monkey, the red-shanked douc is a tree-dwelling species found in the forests of East Asia, including Vietnam, Laos, and potentially China.

One of the most fascinating things about the red shanked douc is how it communicates through facial expressions. They’ll use various expressions, such as blinking their eyes to show affection or grimacing to show submission. They’re generally a placid species.

Red-shanked doucs are among some of the most colorful primates and have a distinct mane of white hair around the face. They tend not to grow to more than 30 inches (76 cm) in height and could live for around 25 years.


The IUCN Red List describes the red-shanked douc as being critically endangered, and things aren’t getting any better as their numbers continue to decrease. In the last 30 years alone, the population have decreased by as much as 80%.

Bushmeat hunters are among some of the biggest threats to the red-shanked douc, but habitat loss is also an issue. This is because of forest destruction by humans.

Moreover, the illegal pet trade takes many individuals from the wild, vastly decreasing their numbers. Many have also been taken from the wild for medical research.

3. Cross-River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli)

It is thought that the cross-river gorilla has just 200-300 individuals left in the wild, making it a critically endangered species.
Julielangford / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The cross-river gorilla is found in the forests and mountains on the border of Cameroon and Nigeria. While it is a subspecies of the gorilla, its numbers are far fewer. This is the most northern and western example of a gorilla species and they weren’t actually discovered until the beginning of the 20th century.

This species of gorilla usually lives in smaller groups than its cousins, but each group is highly sociable and led by the dominant male, known as the silverback. Males typically grow to between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 9 inches (1.7 meters and 1.8 meters), while the females are significantly shorter at around 4 feet 7 inches (1.4 meters).

These are incredibly intelligent primates that are able to use tools. While generally not an aggressive species, they have been observed throwing grass in retaliation to being provoked.


It is thought that the cross-river gorilla has just 200-300 individuals left in the wild, making it a critically endangered species.

As is the case with many animals, one of the main threats to the cross-river gorilla is a loss of habitat. Logging is one of the main causes of this, as is deforestation to make way for agricultural land.

What’s more, the species has been hunted by humans and lives in an area of unprotected forest. Because of the decreasing populations, the cross-river gorilla is now experiencing a loss of genetic diversity.

4. Tonkin Snub-Nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus)

On the IUCN Red List, the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is listed as critically endangered, and it’s thought that there could be fewer than 100 individuals left in the wild.
Quyet Le / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is found in the limestone hills and mountains of Vietnam in forest habitats. They prefer a subtropical forest habitat, either broad-leaf or bamboo, and enjoy areas where there is an obvious monsoon season.

One of the most distinguishing features of the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is its upturned nose which is seen in both sexes. They also have pink lips and a flattened face which gives them a very unique appearance.

The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey lives in tightly knit groups made up of either all males or one male and all females. They travel together and do everything as a group such as feeding and sleeping.


On the IUCN Red List, the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey is listed as critically endangered, and it’s thought that there could be fewer than 100 individuals left in the wild.

These primates already have a very limited habitat and this is being further destroyed through human activity. Things like clearing the forest for bamboo and gold mining are both to blame.

Additionally, these monkeys are hunted by humans for food; despite this being illegal, it still occurs.

5. Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii)

Over the last few years, a significant amount of the Sumatran orangutan's natural habitat has been destroyed because of illegal logging.

The Sumatran orangutan is one of three orangutan species and is found in the northern forests of the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. They enjoy lowland tropical forests, including both swamps and mangroves as well as riverside forests.

These primates can be distinguished by their plate faces and bright, rusty red hair, although their hair is not as bright as their Borneo cousins. They are relatively large, with males growing to around 5 feet 6 inches (1.7 meters).

As with many primate species, the Sumatran orangutan is very intelligent. Not only are they able to learn a variety of complex tasks, but they’re also known to be able to comprehend language!


The Sumatran orangutan is considered to be a critically endangered species, according to the IUCN Red List.

Over the last few years, a significant amount of this primate’s natural habitat has been destroyed because of illegal logging. In the last 20 years alone, as much as 80% of their habitat has been lost.

Not only this, but the Sumatran orangutan is hunted for its meat as well as being a target for poachers for the illegal pet trade.

6. Greater Bamboo Lemur (Hapalemur simus)

The greater bamboo lemur is listed as critically endangered, and it’s thought that there are only around 150 individuals left in the wild.

The greater bamboo lemur is only found on the island of Madagascar and can be found in humid rainforests with an abundance of bamboo. Out of all the bamboo-eating lemurs on the island, this is the largest species and can grow up to 18 inches (46 cm) in length.

These lemurs are very social animals that live in medium sized groups, typically with around 28 members. They have a relatively long life span of around 17 years in the wild and have a variety of calls and noises that they use to communicate with one another.

Sometimes called broad-nosed bamboo lemurs, these animals have a thick coats that could be anywhere from olive brown to reddish gray in color. One of their most prominent identifying features is the tufts of white hair by the ears as well as their round dark eyes.


The greater bamboo lemur is listed as critically endangered, and it’s thought that there are only around 150 individuals left in the wild. They have the smallest population of any of the Madagascan lemurs, and one of their greatest threats comes from illegal logging as well as bamboo harvest.

Their habitat is also being lost because of slash-and-burn agriculture but there are some parts of Madagascar where the greater bamboo lemur is still hunted, despite its critically endangered status.

7. Roloway Monkey (Cercopithecus roloway)

It’s thought that there are fewer than 200 Roloway monkeys left in the wild, giving them a critically endangered status.

The Roloway monkey is found in a very limited area of Western Africa, including the Ivory Coast and Ghana. It is thought that there may be small populations in Burkina Faso, but this is unconfirmed. They live in a tropical forest habitat and are an arboreal species.

Male Roloway monkeys can grow to around 35 inches (90 cm) in height, while the females are slightly shorter at around an average of 28.5 inches (72.5 cm). They have a glossy black coat with white facial markings and a long tail which makes up more than half of the total length of the animal.

Not much is known about the reproduction and lifespan of the Roloway monkey due to a lack of studies. However, it is thought that they live for around 31 years and give birth to 1 or 2 young at a time.


It’s thought that there are fewer than 200 Roloway monkeys left in the wild, giving them a critically endangered status. In fact, they’re considered to be one of the most endangered monkey species in the world.

Threats include habitat degradation as a result of logging and agriculture, but the species is also a victim of illegal poaching.

8. Popa Langur (Trachypithecus popa)

The popa langur is a very easily identifiable species with a dark brown to black or gray coat and white rings around the eyes. These are smaller primates that typically weigh no more than 18 lbs (8 kg).

But there’s still a lot to learn about this species that lives in a very specific region of Myanmar because it’s only recently been discovered. And it wasn’t even discovered in the wild; a century-old sample in the lab gave scientists the clues they needed to uncover the species.


The popa langur is a critically endangered species and it’s estimated that there are no more than 250 mature individuals in the wild.

As with many species, the popa langur faces threats from a loss of habitat as well as habitat degradation. Fragmentation is also a problem.

9. Philippine Tarsier (Carlito syrichta)

The Philippine tarsier is considered to be a near-threatened species, and it’s thought that there are between 5000 and 10,000 remaining in the wild.

One of the smallest primates on the planet, the Philippine tarsier measures just 6 inches (16 cm), with some of the smallest individuals measuring just half of that! These are incredibly adorable little creatures with large, round eyes, brown fur and long fingers which they use for climbing and gripping.

They’re found in the Philippines in rainforests, as well as areas with long grasses and lots of bamboo where they can be found leaping between the trees.

While they might be sweet, they’re adept hunters and have excellent hearing and night vision which allows them to catch the small vertebrates, lizards, and insects on which they feed.


The Philippine tarsier is considered to be a near-threatened species, and it’s thought that there are between 5000 and 10,000 remaining in the wild. 

Owing to their cute appearance, the tarsier has become a target for the pet trade and, as such, hunters will go out into the forests and shake them from the trees which has drastically reduced their numbers.

What’s more, there is a significant amount of deforestation happening in their range, and this has caused habitat loss.

10. Eastern Black-Crested Gibbon (Nomascus nasutus)

Found in the southeastern parts of China and Vietnam, the eastern black-crested gibbon is a critically endangered species, sometimes called the cao-vit crested gibbon.

These are small primates which are named because of the black markings on the top of the head. The body is covered in a reddish/orange coat with white markings and a white mane around the face.

Up until the year 2000, there had been no sightings of the eastern black-crested gibbon for around 40 years so it was presumed to be extinct.


Listed as critically endangered, there could be as few as 49 individual eastern black-crested gibbons left in the wild. 

They are considered to be one of the most endangered primates in the world and are faced with several threats. These include habitat loss and degradation as well as illegal trade and hunting, which has caused a loss of up to 99% of their habitat in China.

11. Pygmy Slow Loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus)

The IUCN Red List lists the pygmy slow loris as being an endangered species, and populations continue to decline.

The pygmy slow loris enjoys a variety of forest habitats, including evergreen, semi-evergreen, and dry tropical forests. It is found in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, where it lives in small groups. They’re not typically aggressive towards one another but also do not rely heavily on other members of the group for things like parenting and food.

During warmer months, these nocturnal primates can be seen constantly moving through the trees at night. However, as the weather turns colder, they’ll lower their metabolic rate and use their fat reserves as a source of energy.

They have an omnivorous diet that consists of termites, fruits, and bamboo.


The IUCN Red List lists the pygmy slow loris as being an endangered species, and populations continue to decline. Between 1984 and 2008, it was observed that the wild populations decreased by as much as 30%, and this trend continues.

The main threat to this species is habitat loss which comes as a result of slash-and-burn agriculture as well as logging. However, populations declined significantly during the Vietnam war.

What’s more, the pygmy slow loris is often used in traditional medicine and is therefore hunted for this reason.

12. Javan Slow Loris (Nycticebus javanicus)

One of the most significant threats to the Javan slow loris is illegal poaching for the pet trade.
Dr. K.A.I. Nekaris / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Javan slow loris is found on the Indonesian island of Java where it lives in a variety of forested habitats, including lowland rainforest, highland rainforest, bamboo forests, and mangroves.

The species can be identified by the white band that runs around the head and forks at the eyes. This is a small primate species that typically grows to around 11 inches (28 cm) and doesn’t weigh more than 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg).

Javan slow loris feed on a diet of chocolate seeds, eggs, lizards, and fruits and are nocturnal hunters who favor an arboreal lifestyle. That said, they are occasionally seen on the ground.


One of the most significant threats to the Javan slow loris is illegal poaching for the pet trade. However, it also faces threats from things like hunting for use in traditional medicine, although this is not as big of a problem.

According to the IUCN Red List, the Javan slow loris is considered to be critically endangered, and deforestation is reducing their habitat, causing populations to decline even further. What’s more, this reduction of forest cover makes them more vulnerable to hunters and poachers.

13. Ring-Tailed Lemur (Lemur catta)

The ring-tailed lemur is listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List which also states that numbers are still declining.

When most people think of a lemur, they imagine the ring-tailed lemur; it’s something of a wildlife icon with its black and white ringed tail, wide orange eyes, and distinct gray, black and white coloration.

This species has a very limited range in the southern part of Madagascar, where it mainly lives in riparian forests. They are omnivores and opportunists, so have a very varied diet that can include fruits, insects, birds, eggs, and many other things.

The ring-tailed lemur is a mid to large-sized primate species that grows to between 15 inches and 18 inches (39 cm and 46 cm). In the wild, they typically live to around 27 years, although some individuals may live for over 30 years.


The ring-tailed lemur is listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List which also states that numbers are still declining. 

Agriculture is a serious threat as this causes habitat loss and degradation when farmers allow their cattle to overgraze. What’s more, forests are being cut down and burned. Beyond this, climate change has resulted in longer periods of drought which has a detrimental effect on the ring-tailed lemur.

These primates are sometimes hunted for food and are a popular target for poachers in the pet trade.

14. Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei)

The IUCN Red List states that there are only around 600 mountain gorillas left in the wild, making them an endangered species.

The mountain gorilla is another animal that has a seriously limited range, and only two groups now exist in the wild. They are found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as well as the Virunga Volcanoes. Within these two groups, the gorillas will live in smaller groups that consist of one male and several females.

The species is a subspecies of the eastern and western gorillas and prefers a high-altitude habitat where there are lots of bamboo forests. Because they have much thicker fur than other gorilla species, this enables them to handle the cooler temperatures in the mountains where they live.

Mountain gorillas are large primates that can weigh up to 440 lbs (200 kg), and adult males may stand up to 5.5 feet (1.7 meters) tall, the females are usually a little smaller.


The IUCN Red List states that there are only around 600 mountain gorillas left in the wild, making them an endangered species.

There are two main threats to the mountain gorilla with the most serious being habitat loss. The forests in which they live are surrounded by human settlements and these are being continuously expanded.

Another threat comes from poachers looking to collect their heads, feet, and hands to sell to collectors. These gentle giants are also often the victims of traps set for other animals.

15. Purple-Faced Langur (Semnopithecus vetulus)

The purple-faced langur is listed as an endangered species, and populations continue to decline.

The purple-faced langur is a small monkey species found exclusively in Sri Lanka. They are mainly found along the west and southwest coasts and prefer lowland rainforest habitats, although they can be found further inland in dry or cloud forests.

These primates live in small groups called harems, which consist of one male and several females, usually with numbers up to seven. However, larger groups consisting of all males are also common.

Males grow to around 24 inches (60 cm), with females being a little smaller. While their name may suggest that they have a purple face, the coloration is more of a grayish black with white to brown whiskers.


The purple-faced langur is listed as an endangered species, and populations continue to decline. In the short space of 20 years, the habitat of this species decreased from 80% to 25%, and the threat of habitat loss continues. 

Agriculture, grazing, and deforestation are among the main causes for the loss of habitat, and the species is also faced with poisoning from the chemicals used in local agriculture as well as hunting.

16. Tapanuli Orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis)

Unfortunately, the Tapanuli orangutan is listed as critically endangered, despite being a relatively newly discovered species.
Tim Laman / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

Considered to be the rarest of all the great apes, the Tapanuli orangutan wasn’t actually discovered until 2017. It inhabits the same areas as the Sumatran orangutan but has distinct genetic differences from its cousins and those in Borneo. Compared to the Sumatran orangutan, they’re relatively similar in appearance but have smaller heads, frizzier hair, and a flatter face.

The species is only found within a 475 square miles (1229.50 square kilometers) range in the northern part of the island, and it’s thought that it has been separated from the Sumatran population for tens of thousands of years.

Tapanuli orangutans are an arboreal species that feed on conifer cones and caterpillars. It’s thought that they spend all of their time in the trees to avoid being predated by local tigers. The males have an incredibly loud and long call that’s much bolder than that of their Sumatran cousins.


Unfortunately, the Tapanuli orangutan is listed as critically endangered, despite being a relatively newly discovered species.

As a result of hunting and habitat loss, it’s thought that this species now only inhabits as little as 2.5% of its historic range, and things don’t appear to be getting any better. 

Not only this, but living in such a limited area has its own set of problems which run alongside things like habitat fragmentation. As a result of this, it’s thought that there are now only 800 individuals in the wild.

17. Hainan Gibbon (Nomascus hainanus)

The Hainan gibbon is found only on the island of Hainan, off the coast of China, and is limited to a 116 square miles (300 square kilometers) range within the Bawangling National Nature Reserve. They prefer a tropical forest habitat.

These primates are among some of the most endangered species on the planet, and since the remaining individuals share a gene pool, a lack of genetic diversity could mean their ultimate demise.

The Hainan gibbon is a small primate weighing around 22 lbs (10 kg). They have a black crest on the top of the head, and the females have a white face.


The Hainan gibbon is a critically endangered species and, according to information on the IUCN Red List website, there could be as few as 10 mature adults left in the wild.

One of the most significant threats to the survival of the Hainan gibbon is habitat loss. It’s believed that as much as 95% of their historic habitat has now been lost, and some scientists think that the described range is incredibly generous; a more realistic range may be just 6.18 square miles (16 square kilometers) within the BNNR.

18. Colombian Spider Monkey (Ateles fusciceps rufiventris)

The Colombian spider monkey is listed as endangered largely due to their very limited range.
ReflectedSerendipity from United Kingdom / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Colombian spider monkey is a rare primate species and a type of New World Monkey that is found in Colombia as well as parts of Panama. It prefers a forest habitat but can be found in several different types of forest, including humid, cloud, and dry forests.

Colombian spider monkeys have a glossy dark black coat and one of their most identifiable characteristics is the lack of a thumb on the hands. Interestingly, the tip of the tail does not have any hairs and has its own unique stamp just like our fingerprints!

These monkeys feed on a diet of fruit, leaves, seeds, and sometimes insects. They live in small groups, and females will usually breed every three years, producing just one baby. In captivity, they have been known to live for around 30 years.


The Colombian spider monkey is listed as endangered largely due to their very limited range. What’s more, the destruction of the rainforests in which they live has resulted in major habitat loss. Typically, this species prefers older forests and is unlikely to venture into new growth, so fragmentation is also an issue.

On top of this, the Colombian spider monkey is a target for hunters.

19. Pig-Tailed Langur (Simias concolor)

The pig-tailed langur is a species endemic to some of the Indonesian islands and is an arboreal species that rarely come down from the trees unless disturbed. It prefers a primary forest location, but there is some suggestion that populations may be found in mangrove forests, although this is disputed.

Pig-tailed langurs are small primates that don’t usually exceed 20 inches (51 cm) in length. Males may be slightly bigger than females, but the difference is very small. Most individuals will have dark gray coloration, but it is known that they may go through a creamy-buff phase. They have a snub nose and short tails.


The pig-tailed langur is listed as being critically endangered, and the concern is that numbers are continuing to decline. At the time of writing, it’s estimated that there are around 10,000 individuals left in the wild.

While hunting is a significant threat to the survival of this species, habitat loss as a result of logging is the main cause of their endangered status.

20. Northern Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis)

The northern sportive lemur is listed as critically endangered, with numbers continuing to decline.
Edward E. Louis, Jr / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The northern sportive lemur is endemic to the island of Madagascar and has a very small range here at the northern tip of the island around the Loky River and out to the coast. While they can be found in humid forests, they typically prefer a dry forest habitat.

Growing to just 21 inches (53 cm), the northern sportive lemur is one of the smallest species within its genus. They have dark coloration at the crown with gray to brown coloration on the rest of the body. One of their most distinguishing features is their large eyes which give them binocular vision.

Northern sportive lemurs feed on a diet of leaves, flowers, and fruit and have an average lifespan of around 15 years in the wild.


The northern sportive lemur is listed as critically endangered, with numbers continuing to decline. One of the main threats to their survival is the slash-and-burn agriculture that is used within the local area, but they are also victims of hunting as humans seek them out as a food source.

21. Pennant’s Colobus (Piliocolobus pennantii)

The numbers of Pennant’s colobus in the wild are continuing to decline, giving them a critically endangered status on the IUCN Red List.
Laika ac from USA / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pennant’s colobus is a species of arboreal primate that is found in the tropical central regions of Africa. It takes its name from the Greek word κολοβός which means cut short owing to the fact that, unlike a lot of primates, it does not have opposable thumbs.

These animals are mainly found in dense primary and secondary rainforests but they have sometimes been known to frequent marsh forests.

Pennant’s colobus have long fingers which allow them to climb despite not having thumbs. They have maroon to orange colored hair with a shaggy texture but the feet and tail tend to be darker in color; sometimes black.


The numbers of Pennant’s colobus in the wild are continuing to decline, giving them a critically endangered status on the IUCN Red List.

The species is considered to be one of the top 25 most endangered primates on the planet, and this has come mainly as a result of habitat loss. Additionally, the species is also a target for hunters who have depleted its numbers significantly.

22. Indri (Indri indri)

The indri indri is considered to be critically endangered and, as is the case with many of its primate cousins, the populations continue to decrease.

Indri indri is a species of lemur and one of the largest of its kind. One of the most distinct things about this primate is its ability to use rhythm; something that no other primate aside from humans can do. It has a unique range of calls that it uses to communicate.

Indri indri, sometimes just called the indri, is found in Madagascar and is contained to the northeastern part of the island. They are found in montane and coastal rainforests up to an elevation of 1800 feet (549 meters).

Indri can grow up to 3 feet (91 cm) in height but only have very short tails in comparison to their bodies; perhaps only growing to around 2-2.4 inches (5-6 cm). They have long legs, short arms, and prominent tufts of hair on the ears.


The indri indri is considered to be critically endangered and, as is the case with many of its primate cousins, the populations continue to decrease.

One of the main threats to the species is habitat loss as forests are cut down for fuel and agriculture. The good news is that the local community frown upon hunting and killing indri for food and they’re almost never kept as pets so poaching is not an issue.

Conservation Efforts to Protect Primates

Conservation efforts to protect primates

It’s clear that there are many threats to the world’s primates but the good news is that humans have taken notice. As such, various conservation efforts are being put into place to help protect these species and potentially grow their populations.

Habitat Restoration

Restoring damaged and degraded primate habitat is one of the most essential things that humans can be doing at the moment. By ensuring that habitat is being restored, we can provide primates with all the resources they need to survive, and there are lots of efforts going on around the world.

For example, Nottingham Trent University in the UK has teamed up with academic establishments in Kenya in an effort to learn more about the indigenous forests in Brackenhurst. The hope is that, as a result of this collaboration, restoration in the area can begin.

Another example of human efforts to restore primate habitat is happening in Brazil, where conservationists have successfully restored the habitat of the golden lion tamarin. As a result of the Olympics being held here in 2016, further sponsorship was given to plant another 23 million trees.

Over in Rwanda, students have gathered together to start planting trees to provide new habitats for gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park. And these are just some of the examples of what is going on around the world. 

Protected Areas

One of the best ways to protect vulnerable species is to protect the areas in which they live. While this is not always 100% effective, it can go a long way in helping with the problem.

Conservation groups and national governments are getting together to create protected areas that contain primate habitats. Human activities in these areas are prohibited or strictly limited therefore reducing the harm that comes to the primates that live in them.

In Sudan, more than 17,000 hectares of primate and pangolin habitat have now been granted a protected status in the Bangangai Game Reserve. Over in Indonesia, the Gunung Leuser Biosphere Reserve has been protected since the early 80s and provides habitat for orangutans. 

It has been proven that primate populations decline far more rapidly in unprotected areas so it’s important that we continue to create these sanctuaries for them.

Anti-Poaching Efforts

Poaching is a serious threat to many primate species but some of the people doing it aren’t aware of the wider impact. This is why it is essential for organizations to work with local people through community outreach programs to raise awareness and provide education.

Other organizations, like PASA, are working with local authorities to arrest individuals caught hunting primates for bushmeat. Each year, they are saving more than 200 animals from being killed. Arrests like these, and the ones being made in Cambodia, could serve as a warning to others not to poach primates. 

There are even people that are willing to put their lives on the line by listening in on poachers’ activity by recording gunshots to get a better idea of their hunting patterns. This then allows local law enforcement to act accordingly.

Education & Awareness

Having the involvement of the local community is key for conservationists as they’re the people on the frontline that can help protect species. But if they aren’t aware of the problem then they won’t be ready to act, which is why many organizations are working with local communities, providing education and raising awareness.

One excellent example of this was the first Black Howler Monkey Week held in Mexico, which helped to raise awareness at the same time as bringing the community together for some fun. 

In Colombia, the NPC provides educational activities for children to help them see the importance of protecting the local ecosystem. And education doesn’t have to happen in the field; there are lots of online resources that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Take PEN for example, the Primate Education Network, that provides education and awareness across more than 70 countries.


Ecotourism can be a viable way to help in the conservation of endangered primate species, when it is done properly. The positive impacts of this include a source of income for the local community as well as providing funding for conservation efforts and raising awareness.

There are many tourist programs in place around the world, including primate-watching tours in Brazil and mountain gorilla tours in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

However, while this can be a beneficial thing, there have been some reports that ecotourism could be causing more stress to monkeys, as was demonstrated during boat tours in Borneo. It is therefore important that we spend time researching the effects and how best to approach ecotourism without negatively affecting primate populations.  

Captive Breeding & Reintroduction Programs

In some cases, a species of primate may become locally extinct. When this happens, it may be possible to breed the species in captivity and release it into the wild to renew the populations.

While the notion is well intended, there are risks associated with this. For animals like primates, much nurturing and teaching are required from the mother in order for the young to survive in the wild. Since this is not given in captivity, it may be much more challenging to release species back into the wild. Studies have shown that reintroducing species into the wild isn’t without its difficulties. In French Guiana and Brazil, captive populations of squirrel monkeys and golden lion tamarins were respectively released, and most ended up dying or being returned to captivity. 

But that isn’t to say that efforts shouldn’t be ongoing. Queen’s University, Belfast is currently working with conservationists in an attempt to release Delacour’s langurs back into the wild, for example.

Research & Monitoring

The only way that we can effectively assist primate populations properly is by better understanding them, which is why monitoring them and researching their behavior is essential. By doing this, we can understand their health and track populations, providing help before it’s too late.

Researchers do not take the task lightly, and over in China, they are using advanced technology such as facial recognition to track individual snub-nosed monkeys. 

Drones are also being employed to oversee the behaviors and habits of the Great Apes in Africa. They can also be used to track human activity and any illegal poaching that may be taking place.

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