Monkeys, Apes Teeter on Brink of Extinction

Article excerpt

BEIJING (Reuters) -- Mankind's closest relatives are teetering on the brink of their first extinctions in more than a century, hunted by humans for food and medicine and squeezed from forest homes, a report on endangered primates said.

There are just a few dozen of the most threatened gibbons and langurs left, and one colobus may already have gone the way of the dodo, warned the report on the 25 most vulnerable primates.

"You could fit all the surviving members of these 25 species in a single football stadium -- that's how few of them remain on earth today," said Russell Mittermeier, president of U.S.-based environmental group Conservation International.

Primates include great apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas, as well as smaller cousins ranging from gibbons and lemurs to monkeys. They are sought after as food, pets, or for traditional medicines, and a few are still trapped for medical research.

Others are victims of competition for living space and resources as forests that make their habitat are chopped down. "In Central and West Africa primate meat ... is a luxury item for the elite," Mittermeier told Reuters in a telephone interview from Cambodia. "Here it's even more for medicinal purposes, with most of the more valuable species going to markets in southeastern China. …