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

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

Author information

Institute of Biology, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City, Mexico.
Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA.
Global Wildlife Conservation, Austin, TX, USA.
School of Natural Sciences and Psychology and Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, Liverpool John Moores University and University of Amsterdam, Liverpool, UK.
Department of Ecology, Federal University of Sergipe, São Cristóvão, Brazil.
Department of Zoology, Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil.
Department of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK.
Global Conservation Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, NY, USA.
Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, UK.
Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, USA.
Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade, Ministério do Meio Ambiente, Brasilia, Brazil.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.
Universidade Federal de Goiás and Dept. Eng. Florestal, Campus UFV, UFV, Viçosa, Brazil, Jataí Viçosa, Brazil.
Departamento de Ciências, Faculdade de Formação de Professores, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (DCIEN/FFP/UERJ), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Bristol Zoological Society, Bristol, UK.
Deutsches Primatenzentrum, Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Göttingen, Germany.
Borneo Nature Foundation, Palangka Raya, Indonesia.
Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK.
Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Instituto Pri-Matas and Centro Universitário Norte do Espírito Santo, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Mention Anthropobiologie et Développement Durable, University of Antananarivo, Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Diadema, São Paulo, Brazil.
Groupe d'étude et de recherche sur les primates (Gerp), Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Graduate Program in Conservation Biology, Department of Biology FMIPA, University of Indonesia, Depok, Indonesia.
Mahidol University International College, Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand.
The Aspinall Foundation-Indonesia Program, Bandung West Java, Indonesia.
SwaraOwa, Coffee and Primate Conservation Project, Java, Central Java, Indonesia.


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.


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

Conflict of interest statement

Russell A. Mittermeier and Anthony B. Rylands are employed by Global Wildlife Conservation, Christoph Schwitzer is employed by Bristol Zoological Society, Christian Roos is employed by Deutsches Primatenzentrum, Made Wedana is employed by The Aspinall Foundation and Arif Setiawan is employed by SwaraOwa.

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