conservation environment science

Taking species extinction personally

Lemur sahamalazensisConservation International issued a warning today that 114 of the world’s 394 primate species are on the ‘red list’ of species in danger of extinction.

The list of the top 25 most endangered primates includes four from Madagascar, one of the world’s great biodiversity hotspots, and formerly home to my brother Paul and myself. Three varieties of colobus monkey are also on the list, an elusive primate that we used to go looking for in the forests around our Kenyan boarding school. We used to see their white fur against the dark trees from a distance, but they’re shy and you almost never got close to them, no matter how quietly you moved.

I wanted to write about this because although Paul and I probably never saw these particular species, we’ve seen their close relatives, and it kind of makes the threat of extinction personal for me. There are a dozen species of lemur that are almost identical to the Sahamalazensis Lemur on the left, and I’ve seen them in the wild, fed banana skins to baby ones, met people who keep them as pets, and been climbed on by tame ones. I can’t read about the disappearance of these species and not take it personally. It feels like my own memories being erased.

The reasons for species loss among primates are varied, but centre mostly around logging, mining, and slash and burn agriculture. The World Conservation Union‘s press release reads: “Habitat loss due to the clearing of tropical forests for agriculture, logging, and the collection of fuel wood continues to be the major factor in the declining number of primates, according to the report. Tropical deforestation also emits 20 percent of total greenhouse gases that cause climate change, which is more than all the world’s cars, trucks, trains and airplanes combined. In addition, climate change is altering the habitats of many species, leaving those with small ranges even more vulnerable to extinction. ”

I feel pretty powerless about this, as I do with many of the things we write about here on make wealth history, but I feel like I need to write about them anyway. Paul is studying conservation. Perhaps he can suggest more solutions than I can.


  1. If you look on

    EDGE stands for “Evolutionary Extinct or Globally Endangered”. Its an organization that focuses on working out which animals are the most threatened and puts them in order of 1-100. 1 being the most threatened (the Yangtze River dolphin) and 100 being the least (out of the top 100 threatened species).

    Unfortunately like you said a large number of animals from Madagascar appear on the list. The majority of lemurs and the fosa are on there. You’ll find much more disturbing thing on there as well.

    In general i understand that Island species are the ones most at threat. The encouraging thing is it is also the area in which the most conservation is done.

    This is the link for the official “RED LIST” you mentioned

  2. I forgot to mention. On the site, it tells you how you can help.

    “Help Save Species”

    Conservation is expensive, especially when the government of the host country doesn’t take interest in a critically endangered species.

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