Primate extinction: how the consumer demand for commodities is causing primate habitat loss

An image to illustrate the risk of primate extinction due to primate habitat loss
© iStock/Valmol48

The growing global market for commodities is threatening the world’s primates, according to a new study on primate extinction and primate habitat loss.

160 million hectares of forest were lost in the tropics as a result of human activities, causing the risk of primate extinction. A new study has found that fifty percent or more of this primate habitat loss was due to the global consumer demand for commodities.

The growing global demand for commodities

The study has found that the consumer demand for both food and non-food commodities from the global community in general and specifically high-income nations, are significant drivers of degradation and primate habitat loss.

The risk of primate extinction

The authors Alejandro Estrada, Paul A. Garber and Abhishek Chaudhary argue: “Growing global consumer demands for food and non-food commodities from primate range regions are placing primate populations at risk of extinction. These increasing demands have resulted in an accelerated global expansion of agriculture and of extractive industries and in the growth of infrastructure to support these activities leading to widespread primate habitat loss and degradation.”

Around 60 percent of primate species are threatened with extinction and other 75 percent have declining populations. According to the study this is the result of:

• Escalating anthropogenic pressures resulting in deforestation;
• Habitat degradation; and
• Increased spatial conflict between an expanding human population and the natural range of primates.

Cost vs benefit of commodity export for primate habitat countries

The study states that the economic benefits of commodity export for primate habitat countries has been limited relative to the extreme costs of:

•Habitat degradation;
•Loss of biodiversity;
•Continued food insecurity; and
•The threat of emerging diseases.

Primate and habitat conservation

The authors conclude: “Primates and their habitats are a vital component of the world’s natural heritage and culture and as our closest living biological relatives, nonhuman primates deserve our full attention, concern, and support for their conservation and survivorship.”

The full study is available in PeerJ – the Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences.

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