Primates in peril: the significance of Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for global primate conservation

PeerJ. 2018 Jun 15;6:e4869. doi: 10.7717/peerj.4869. eCollection 2018.


Primates occur in 90 countries, but four-Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)-harbor 65% of the world's primate species (439) and 60% of these primates are Threatened, Endangered, or Critically Endangered (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017-3). Considering their importance for global primate conservation, we examine the anthropogenic pressures each country is facing that place their primate populations at risk. Habitat loss and fragmentation are main threats to primates in Brazil, Madagascar, and Indonesia. However, in DRC hunting for the commercial bushmeat trade is the primary threat. Encroachment on primate habitats driven by local and global market demands for food and non-food commodities hunting, illegal trade, the proliferation of invasive species, and human and domestic-animal borne infectious diseases cause habitat loss, population declines, and extirpation. Modeling agricultural expansion in the 21st century for the four countries under a worst-case-scenario, showed a primate range contraction of 78% for Brazil, 72% for Indonesia, 62% for Madagascar, and 32% for DRC. These pressures unfold in the context of expanding human populations with low levels of development. Weak governance across these four countries may limit effective primate conservation planning. We examine landscape and local approaches to effective primate conservation policies and assess the distribution of protected areas and primates in each country. Primates in Brazil and Madagascar have 38% of their range inside protected areas, 17% in Indonesia and 14% in DRC, suggesting that the great majority of primate populations remain vulnerable. We list the key challenges faced by the four countries to avert primate extinctions now and in the future. In the short term, effective law enforcement to stop illegal hunting and illegal forest destruction is absolutely key. Long-term success can only be achieved by focusing local and global public awareness, and actively engaging with international organizations, multinational businesses and consumer nations to reduce unsustainable demands on the environment. Finally, the four primate range countries need to ensure that integrated, sustainable land-use planning for economic development includes the maintenance of biodiversity and intact, functional natural ecosystems.

Keywords: Agricultural expansion; Community forests; Corruption and governance; Deforestation; Forest-risk commodity trade; Hunting; Illegal trade; Logging; Poaching; Protected areas.

Grant support

Anthony B. Rylands and Russell A. Mittermeier received support from Global Wildlife Conservation, Austin, Texas, USA. Sidney Gouveia and Ricardo Dobrovolski are supported by CNPq, CAPES and FAPESB (the Research Agency of the state of Bahia). Their contribution to the manuscript was developed in the context of the Institute for Science and Technology (INCT) in Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity Conservation, MCTIC/CNpq (proc. 465610/2014-5) and FAPEG. Mauricio Talebi’s contributions were supported by the São Paulo State Research Agency (FAPESP Process 2016/08422-0). Júlio César Bicca-Marques’ contribution was facilitated by the Brazilian National Science Foundation/CNPq (PQ #303306/2013-0). Leandro Jerusalinsky received support from ICMBio. USAID-CARPE and USFWS have contributed to numerous wildlife surveys in DRC and has supported Susan Cheyne’s long-term studies in Indonesia. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.