IUCN - All our cousins on display

All our cousins on display

14 May 2013 | News story

The first book to profile all species of primates, with illustrations of every species and insights into their role in nature and value to humans, has been launched today by Lynx Edicions in association with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation International (CI).

The book, which is the third volume of the series Handbook of the Mammals of the World presents the most comprehensive information on 16 families, 77 genera, 479 species and 681 taxa of primates. This 952-page book features, for the first time ever, illustrations of every single species, in addition to hundreds of photos and maps.

“We are hopeful that this book, published as part of such a prestigious series, will make great strides in helping to stimulate interest in primates, and, in doing so, make a major contribution to the conservation of this important group of animals,” said Dr. Russell Mittermeier, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission’s Primate Specialist Group and President of Conservation International. “Most people don’t realize that primates are pollinators and seed dispersers, playing a fundamental role in nature and contributing to human well-being through the maintenance of healthy forests, which give us clean air, water and a stable climate.”

Early primate studies were based on a desire to learn more about human evolution by studying our closest living relatives. In recent years, however, research has shown that these animals are not only remarkably interesting in their own way but that they are also an essential component of healthy forests and, therefore, extremely valuable for the vital services they provide to humankind.

Primates can be found mostly in the tropics, and many of them serve as “flagship” species to proclaim the need to protect the forests where they live. The muriqui (Brachyteles arachnoides and Brachyteles hypoxanthus), which occurs in the heavily impacted Atlantic Forest, is the largest endemic mammal to Brazil. It travels over long distances in the forest canopy, helping to regenerate the forest as it disperses the seeds of the fruits it eats. In Madagascar, the indri (Indri indri) is known for its loud, haunting call that can be heard from miles away. The largest tree-dwelling mammal in the world is the orangutan (Pongo abelii and Pongo pygmaeus), which can weigh almost 200 lbs. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we find our closest living relative, the bonobo (Pan paniscus), a type of chimpanzee popularly known for its active sexual behavior. Half of all primates species, however, are threatened, primarily due to hunting and the widespread destruction of their forests.

Dr. Anthony Rylands, co-chief editor and Deputy Chair of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, who dedicated three years of work to this publication, said: “It is a remarkable endeavor, I am privileged to have worked with those who contributed so brilliantly to this extraordinary and unique compilation and, most especially, with the artist Stephen D. Nash who illustrated for the first time and so wonderfully all the primates we know of today. Behind this celebration, however, lies the stark and dismal fact that all are now declining in numbers—so many will soon be lost forever unless the unrelenting destruction of the world’s tropical forests can be stopped—devastating as it is for the survival of both non-human and human primates.”

Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Vol. 3. Primates is for sale at: http://www.lynxeds.com/hmw/handbook-mammals-world-volume-3

For more information, please contact:
Ewa Magiera, IUCN Media and Communications Officer, Ewa.Magiera@iucn.org