Primates can be split up into four main groups;
- New world monkeys
- Old world monkeys
- Apes (greater and lesser)
Primates are found more or less on every area of land on the planet, however, if we remove Homo sapiens (Humans) from the picture, the distribution of primates becomes far more localised. The non-human primates are localised primarily to tropical/sub-tropical forests and woodland, although a few species have adapted to Savannah and montane habitats.
Does it matter if we lose a monkey species here or an ape sub species there?
It sure does. As Nikela Volunteer Maggie Sergio is personally delivering a donation check to Karin Saks who rescues ᴏʀᴘʜᴀɴᴇᴅ, ɪɴᴊᴜʀᴇᴅ ᴀɴᴅ ᴀʙᴜsᴇᴅ primates in South Africa, we thought we should look into why saving vervet monkeys, baboons and other species matters.
WHY SHOULD WE CONSERVE THEM?
Primates are the most ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛᴇɴᴇᴅ to ᴇxᴛɪɴᴄᴛion than any other mammal species on the planet which is echoed in a report from the IUCN in 2000, which revealed that primates are experiencing the greatest change in regards to becoming more enᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀed than any other group of mammals.
The total number of primate taxa currently recognised is 621, according to Conservation International. Of these, 52 are considered critically enᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀed; 92 are enᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀed; and 80 are vulnerable. Primates are by their very scientific classification related to humans and for this reason alone they deserve greater attention in regards to conservation.
Part of Our Heritage…
Primates are important as part of the natural heritage of many countries and form an important component of this planets biodiversity and the biodiversity of many individual countries. With an ever increasing focus on the importance of biodiversity both ecologically and economically, there is a great need to reverse the downward trend in species loss, especially for keystone species such as a the great apes whose loss has a significantly negative impact on both the ecology of their home ranges and the humans who rely upon their ecological functions. The very simple message everyone needs to understand is increased biodiversity equals increased benefits for humans in every area, from health to economy, with the reverse equalling great losses for humans.
Growing Trees and Shrubs…
Primates also play key roles in ecology as seed dispersers for many important tree/shrub species and account for 25%-40% (biomass) of all frugivorous (fruit eating) species found within tropical rainforests. Their ecological role is essential for the functioning of many key ecosystems which humans rely on both within and outside forested areas.
The chimpanzee, a fellow great ape, shares 98.5% of our DNA and they are our closest living relative, with both humans and chimpanzees separating from a common ancestor just 6 million years ago (a relatively small time frame in evolutionary terms). The research potential for humans in unlocking our own evolutionary past through the study of primates is unparalleled and essential to our understanding of our own species.