Bristol Zoo Gardens

New study shows growing number of primates in danger in the wild

Posted: 18th January, 2022

A new study by conservationists based in Bristol has revealed that 65 per cent of primates are at risk of extinction.


The alarming figure has been revealed in the report co-authored by conservationists at Bristol Zoological Society and the University of the West of England. It is part of ongoing work by Bristol Zoological Society to tackle the decline in gorilla numbers in the wild. The Society is also involved in a breeding programme for western lowland gorillas at Bristol Zoo Gardens, with two infants born in the past 18 months. And it has just announced that western lowland gorillas will be part of a major new exhibit at the new Bristol Zoo due to open in 2024 with conservation at its heart.

The report called The Current Status of the World’s Primates states: “Our results confirmed that the majority of primate species are currently threatened and require urgent conservation attention.”

It says primate numbers, including those of gorillas and lemurs, are in decline because of hunting and loss of forests from logging and agriculture.

It continues: “We also found that two emerging threats, namely climate change and infectious diseases, are affecting a growing number of primate species.”

The study looked at 491 species of primates across Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Madagascar, drawing on the most recent information from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List. It also examined almost 9,000 articles detailing the most recent threats to primates.

The report states: “Out of the 491 species of primates included in the IUCN Red List as of July 9, 2020, 319 were threatened with extinction.”

It points out that primates remain one of the most threatened groups of mammals on the planet with those in Asia and Madagascar at most risk. They include blue-eyed black lemurs and cherry-crowned mangabey monkeys. Primates are under siege from hunting, the pet trade, logging and non-timber crop production,” it states. The study calls for action to combat other emerging threats such as climate change and infectious disease. 


It concludes: “We must work to develop evidence-based conservation initiatives, to be able to meet the varied challenges facing primates around the world and reverse the trend of increasing rates of threatened species on the IUCN Red List.”


The study’s authors include Dr Grainne McCabe and Dr Daphne Kerhoas from Bristol Zoological Society, Dr David Fernández from the University of the West of England and Andrea Dempsey from West Africa Primate Conservation Action.

The full report is available at


Bristol Zoological Society is leading a project which focuses on western lowland gorillas and their habitat in Monte Alén National Park, Equatorial Guinea – an area highlighted as critically important for the conservation of this species. As well as studying gorilla population numbers and setting up camera traps,  the Society is also helping to build a research base and supporting the recruitment, training and deployment of eco-guards in the national park. And in northern Madagascar, in and around the Sahamalaza-Iles Radama National Park, the Society’s conservationists are trying to stem the decline in endangered lemur species, such as the blue-eyed black lemur. Their strategy is to use a series of initiatives working with local people to monitor biodiversity and mitigate the threat of habitat loss. 


For more details about the Society’s conservation work, which takes place in 10 countries, go to  Conservation projects | Conservation at Bristol Zoo | Bristol Zoo

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