Published On: Sat, Dec 17th, 2016

OPINION: 2017 might spell disaster for world’s primates, including humans

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President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change — and much of the E.P.A. itself.

Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr. Trump has criticized the established science of human-caused global warming as a hoax, vowed to “cancel” the Paris accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to fight climate change, and attacked Mr. Obama’s signature global warming policy, the Clean Power Plan, as a “war on coal.”


Scott Pruitt in Washington DC (Photo: Oklahoma Game Development)

Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt is causing serious concern among the scientific community and environmentalists all over the world. But primates around the globe should be the more worried about this situation, and let’s not forget that the Homo Sapiens also belongs to the primate family tree.

Trumpocene era

Some scientists refer to the current geological period as the Anthropocene as a mark of the human species’ impact on the planet’s biodiversity and ecosystem function. There are those who believe that the mark of Trump’s presidency will also be notably recorded in geological time.

Are we now on the (in some minds, apocalyptic) threshold of the Trumpocene? Some argue that we already are, at least in terms of social philosophy, with mass rejection of science and expertise in favour of populist posturing – or misinformation. Scientists are worried on numerous fronts. It may be agreeable to some business sectors – fossil fuels, for example – to dismiss climate change and the importance of the environment, but doing so places our planet’s future in serious jeopardy, and human populations with it.

All primates great and small

There are many threats to the world’s primates, not only climate change. Habitat destruction and loss due to deforestation are major drivers of population decline. “I have observed this during my own research of grey mouse lemurs in Madagascar and chimpanzees in Uganda,” said ecologist Jason Gilchrist.

Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes at Pretoria Zoo. I studied these primates in Uganda where snares set by poachers are a threat. Jason Gilchrist,

These species often exist within finite and shrinking patches of forest. Direct persecution also looms large. It is not unusual for chimps and gorillas to bear the scars of poacher’s snares, including lost limbs. Numerous primate species are endangered by the bushmeat trade.

So, what future is there for Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, the Eastern gorilla … all primates?


Described as a new species in 2000, the tiny Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur is believed to be the world’s smallest living primate.


Eastern Gorilla: the largest of the living apes, the gorilla has a characteristically heavy body shape and shaggy dark coat.

When we talk of primate conservation, we would do well to remember that we are also primates. Looking after the species and habitats of our planet are as important to the future survival, health and welfare of the human species, as they are to the other species that we care about.

Presidents and politicians are important, but we can all make a difference as individuals. Eating less meat and dairy, selecting goods with sustainable palm oil, reducing fuel consumption, and recycling will reduce your environmental impact. And give hope for the future of primates, ourselves included, and other animals.

Monkey Business, a world-first exhibition featuring primates from around the world. From l to r: Sulawesi Crested Macaque (Macaca nigra), critically endangered; Emperor Tamarin (Saguinus imperator subgrisescens), least concern; Mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx), vulnerable. Jason Gilchrist,

Monkey Business, a new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, will feature taxidermy specimens that showcase the diversity of primates and threats to their survival.

; an Ecologist from Edinburgh Napier University said: “I am one of the few people in the world to have seen both the world’s smallest and largest primates in the wild. I don’t want to be the last”.




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