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Primate conservation is the protection of primate species throughout the world. Many species of primates are at risk of becoming extinct in the wild due to hunting, loss of habitat, and competition with humans for food and resources. In order to protect these animals, conservationists gather data about them and determine ways to protect them and the environments they are found in. Conservation programs may also include centers that can treat injured primates as well as breeding programs to help increase the populations of various primate species.
Of the approximately 250 species of primates on the planet, about 80 are considered endangered. Many of these primate species have wild populations of less than 1,000 members. With so many primates in danger of extinction, primate conservation is a critical part of protecting the biodiversity of the planet. Evolutionarily, primates are closely related to humans, making their study invaluable in understanding our own species.
In order to successfully conserve primate species, conservationists need to understand primates and how they interact with their various environments. Conservationists may work with a particular species or in a certain geographic area to gather information about wild populations. This information can be used to develop policies that can protect primates or to develop methods for protecting the environment that can help primates thrive in the wild.
Another part of primate conservation is the protection of individual primate species. Conservationists may work with local human populations to establish ways of coexisting peacefully with primates. In many parts of the world, primates are hunted and eaten for food or destroyed as pests, so conservationists may need to work with people to find other sources of food or alternative ways to keep primates out of crops. In some cases, rehabilitation centers for injured or sick primates may also treat primates and then return them to the wild.
For primate species with critically low numbers, primate conservation may also involve captive breeding programs. Zoos are the most common participants in these programs and frequently lend out primates to other zoos in order to foster genetic diversity within captive primate populations. Though most primates born in zoos remain in them for the duration of their lives, many other animal species have been successfully raised in captivity and then released into the wild as adults. If captive-raised primates have a healthy environment to be released into, this type of primate conservation may be able to restore some wild primate populations.