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3.7: Conservation

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    "Are primates going extinct?" This is a trick question. One answer is "no". The total world primate population has skyrocketed in the last 10,000 years and especially in the last 200 years. But, another answer is "yes". The total number of primate species has declined drastically and primate extinction is expected to continue. One primate is doing really well, at the expense of all the other primates. The primary cause is habitat loss, but a significant and very symbolic factor is that one primate is literally eating all the others.

    * Jane Goodall video on conservation:

    Research on Primates

    Primates are valued as research subjects because their physiology is so similar to ours, but the same similarity makes captive breeding and research unethical. The Russians are good at sending primates into space, but haven't quite figured out how to get them back alive.

    Habitat Loss

    When we cut down forests we push primates towards extinction. This is happening to all primates around the world. The bulk of deforestation is to provide luxury food products (like hamburgers or palm oil) to meet consumer demand in the US.


    GRASP statement on palm oil plantations

    Anthropozoonotic Diseases

    Eco-tourism is generally good for primates because it adds monetary incentives for conservation, but because human and non-human primate biology is so similar (~98%), the diseases that infect us can often jump species and infect the primates we came to watch.


    Ecotourism can transfer disease from humans to primates

    Bush Meat

    I think the story of primate extinction is better told in pictures. What is important to remember is the root cause of why people resort to eating other primates: colonialism. The reason people are hungry is because of how resources are distributed. Even with overpopulation, there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. It is a question of distribution. There are the rich and the poor. Colonialism exacerbated existing class distinctions to better extract natural resources and send wealth to Europe. Colonialism led to post colonialism, where even after “independence”, patterns of corruption continue today.

    It's easy for us to judge people and say we need to stop eating bush meat, but as anthropologists we strive for cultural relativity. Imagine your family was starving, and you had to choose between your children or another primate on the verge of extinction. Would you let YOUR family starve for the sake of another animal?

    One of the most paralyzing factors in this issue is the history of Europe, the US, and Africa is so long and sordid, that our most well-intentioned actions often backfire. Look at the backlash to the recent Kony 2012 campaign. How can the US claim any moral superiority when they perpetuated slavery and racism? How can we claim that we have Africa's best interests at heart, after what what we did in the Congo in 1960--sending the CIA to assassinate the democratically elected leader? The sadness of these pictures goes way beyond the extinction of primates in our generation. It reflects a very difficult political situation, where everyone, especially the primates, loses.

    Warning: Graphic Images

    I was getting very depressed gathering these photos, but I stumbled on an innovative program that is trying to substitute beekeeping for the hunting of bushmeat, and it cheered me up for a moment. There is a crisis and we need to all do something about it, but things aren't hopeless, we just need to work quickly and do more.




















    • * Article on alternatives to bush meat
    • * Mountain Gorilla census over 100
    • * Article: Outlook is grim for mammals and birds as human population grows.
    • * Legal rights for chimpanzees in the US
    • * Vaccinating Lemurs:

    * The Green Corridor Project includes research and reforestation to connect isolated chimpanzees to larger reserves, and help them coexist with humans:

    Imagination Actions

    • Participate in the latest Eyes on Apes action alerts
    • Sign the Pledge not to torture slow lorises:
    • Write letters to stop palm oil plantations to Herakles Farm, TIAA-CREF, another TIAA-CREF, Sara Lee, Pepsi on land used by thousands of orangutans, chimpanzees, and other primates:
    • Sign this petition to ask Russia to stop sending primates into space.
    • Sign this petition asking the Korea Central Zoo to stop giving cigarettes to chimps, and explain why chimps would be likely to get addicted to nicotine and suffer the same health problems as humans?
    • Write a letter asking the NY Blood Center to not abandon chimps in Liberia, and sign this petition to ask IBM to pressure them.
    • Comment on whether Naruto the selfie monkey should own the rights to the photos he took.

    Macaca_nigra_self-portrait_full_body.jpg Macaca_nigra_self-portrait_large.jpg

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) - Self Portraits ©2008 Naruto the Celebes crested macaque, used without permission.

    This page titled 3.7: Conservation is shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Arnie Daniel Schoenberg via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.