Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur (Microcebus berthae) Madagascar (Photo: Conservation International Stephen Nash)
Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur (Microcebus berthae) Madagascar (Photo: Conservation International/Stephen Nash)

A biennial list of the 25 primate species considered to be among the most endangered worldwide and the most in need of conservation measures was released during the United Nation's 11th Convention on Biological Diversity (COP11) in Hyderabad, India.

The report, Primates in Peril: The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates 2012–2014, has been compiled by the Primate Specialist Group of International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the International Primatological Society (IPS), in collaboration with Conservation International (CI) and the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation (BCSF).

The report identifies several species of apes, monkeys and lemurs on the brink of extinction. The 25 species in need of urgent conservation measures are from Africa (5), Madagascar (6), Asia (9) and the Neotropics (5); these are facing threats from destruction of habitats due to burning or deforestation of tropical forests, illegal wildlife trade and hunting.

"Madagascar's lemurs are severely threatened by habitat destruction and illegal hunting, which has accelerated dramatically since the change of power in the country in 2009. The rarest lemur, the Northern Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis), is now down to 19 known individuals in the wild," the IUCN conservationists said in a statement.

According to the IUCN, of the 103 species and subspecies of lemurs, 91 percent are threatened with extinction. This is one of the highest levels of threat ever recorded for a group of vertebrates.

"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. A similar crisis is happening in South-East Asia, where trade in wildlife is bringing many primates very close to extinction," Dr Christoph Schwitzer, head of research at BCSF, added.

The 25 most endangered primate species include Red Ruffed Lemur, Rondo dwarf galago, Madame Berthe's Mouse Lemur, Roloway monkey, Grauer's gorilla and more.

According to the conservationists, these primates have increasingly become a major ecotourism attraction, which in turn, acts as a key source of livelihood in many local communities living around the protected areas in which these species occur. In a forest ecosystem, these primates help maintain biodiversity by serving as seed dispersers. Although, no primate species have been lost to extinction so far in the 20th and 21st centuries, increasing threats from human activities puts them very close to total extirpation.