Primate Paradise

July 16, 2013

Tanzania is home to 27 species of primates—a third of which are found nowhere else on Earth. A new conservation plan would create “Priority Primate Areas” to protect the baboons, colobus, and others, along with their habitats.

More than two dozen primate species reside in Tanzania, widely regarded as the most biodiverse nation on mainland Africa. But with many of them endangered, a five-year study by WCS establishes a roadmap to protect this “monkey nation.”

The study combines Tanzania’s first-ever inventory of all primate species and their habitats with IUCN Red List criteria and other factors such as threats and rarity, ranking all 27 species from most vulnerable to least vulnerable. The authors then identify a network of “Priority Primate Areas” for conservation.

The paper appears in the July 17 issue of the journal Oryx. Authors are Tim Davenport of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Katarzyna Nowak of the Udzungwa Elephant Project, and Andrew Perkin of the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group.

The study found that the most vulnerable primate was the kipunji, first discovered by WCS in 2003 on Mt Rungwe and described by WCS as an entirely new genus in 2006. Another extremely vulnerable species is the Zanzibar red colobus, a species whose population is currently being counted by WCS. More common species include the baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, and vervets.

The study assigned a score to pinpoint the most important areas for protection. The analysis revealed more than 60 important primate areas including national parks, game reserves, forest reserves, conservation areas, and currently unprotected landscapes. However, the adequate protection of just nine sites, including six national parks, one nature reserve, and two forest reserves, totaling 3,350 square miles, would protect all 27 of Tanzania’s primate species.

The authors say that the Priority Primate Areas could be applied in other nations rich in wildlife but facing burgeoning pressures from population growth. This could be similar to “Important Bird Areas” a global effort to identify and conserve places that are vital to birds and other biodiversity.

Tanzania contains the continent’s highest mountain, deepest lakes and large parts of two globally significant biodiversity hotspots, the Eastern Afromontane and the Albertine Rift. However, the country also has the second highest rate of forest loss in sub-Saharan Africa, despite considerable conservation investment and a large amount of land nominally under protection.

To learn more, read the press release.

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