Several causative factors contribute to the drastic reduction of primate populations in the world. The major contributors are the destruction of habitat due to deforestation, the illegal pet trade, and the bush-meat trade: all due to the expansion of humans into primate habitat.
The overpopulation of the Earth by Homo sapiens is the dominant force driving primate extinction. The world population in 2004 was estimated at 6,390,147,200 individuals. The United Nations (U.N.) projects a lower fertility rate and increased mortality risks due to HIV/AIDS for the global community. During the next 47 years, the population of the world is conservatively expected to increase by 2.6 billion people. According to the 2002 U.N. population estimates, if fertility were to remain constant in all countries at current levels, the global population could more than double by 2050, reaching 12.8 billion.
The human population is increasing with momentum; our increasing population’s survival needs will place escalating strain on the Earth’s natural resources.
The human race depends on the Earth’s natural resources to sustain itself. Food, income, fuel, water, shelter, medicine, and electricity are obtained from the environment. When local human populations deplete nearby resources, the populations must expand outward to fulfill their survival needs. With the creation of roads, dams, and infrastructure intended to support the human race, the expansion weakens the environment. This development takes thriving forests and grasslands and renders them environmentally unproductive, resulting in an increase in resource utilization and further perpetuating the cycle of unsustainable development. It is estimated that approximately 1% of the world’s remaining tropical forests, and 0.4% of the Earth’s total forests, are being destroyed every year.
Roads and other man-made infrastructure impact primates by modifying their behavior and species distribution. Primates are impacted directly by the noise, movement, and destruction of the physical environment caused by humans. Primates tend to avoid the fragmented and developed areas created by humans. The disappearance of ancestral habitat, and degradation of existing habitat, results in the reduction of primate breeding success, and overall decreases in primate populations.
Although world food production is still increasing, human population growth is beginning to overwhelm farmers’ production ability. The reduction in undernourished people is still only 27% of the goals set by the U.N. More than 800 million people were undernourished in the year 2000. The explosion of the human species places an ever-increasing strain on the food resources supplied by the environment that sustains humankind.
In Africa, as in many parts of the world, the growth of the logging industry has facilitated access to the forest. Alternatively, increasing urban populations are heightening the need for food sources. The result is an explosion in the trade of bushmeat: forest animals killed for sale as food. This trade provides a relatively quick income to people living in an area with few options for income generation. Hunters remove more than 1 million metric tons of bushmeat from the Congo Basin forests each year. The rising demand for bushmeat, the opening of old-growth forests, the lack of alternative options for income generation, the absence of protein substitutes, and the lack of capacity to enforce existing laws, are the driving factors that threaten primate conservation across West and Central Africa.
If current trends continue, primate extinction on a global level will be a grim reality, one in which the only way left to experience primates will be at zoos and in laboratory settings.
- GLOBIO: Global Methodology for Mapping Human Impacts on the Biosphere. (2001). United Nations environmental program. Retrieved May 21,2005 from http://www.globio.info/index.cfm.
- United Nations; Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Population Division. (2002). Population estimates and projections: 2002 revised highlights. New York: Author.