A stark snapshot of nature loss
While spending a few days off last week with the young primates closest to my own heart, I neglected to flag up here a new report on the threats facing various other primate species around the world.
Primates in Peril: The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates 2006-8 is compiled by specialists from universities and conservation organisations (co-ordinated by the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, the International Primatological Society and Conservation International), and does pretty much what the title indicates - listing the 25 primate species and sub-species considered by that battery of experts to be at most imminent danger of extinction.
Some of the species listed by will be pretty familiar to everyone, such as the Sumatran orangutan.
But others are considerably less familiar and more exotically-named: the silky sifaka, the rondo dwarf galago, and Miss Waldron's red colobus - a named bestowed by its discoverer, British collector Willoughby P Lowe, in 1933 in honour of a research assistant about whom he was thinking...well, we can only guess.
If you want to see or hear Miss Waldron's red colobus in the forests of Cote d'Ivoire or Ghana, you may be out of luck. Not a single live specimen has been spotted since 1993.
Conservationists are always reluctant to declare a species extinct but the odds of this one still being around, the report concludes, are pretty long.
If you're interested in nature's variegated forms, it's worth visiting the picture gallery supplied by the report's authors - a few of the entries are dotted around this post.
But perhaps more interesting are the reasons why Miss Waldron's red colobus is perhaps already beyond salvation and why the other 24 may be heading in the same direction.
They're really simple: loss of habitat, and hunting.
Take the golden-headed langur of Vietnam. Now, it's only found on Cat Ba Island, on the edge of the spectacular Ha Long Bay.
Once the langur roamed over many other of the islands there, according to accounts from local people.
But by 2000, hunting had reduced the population to just 53 individuals; and even though hunting has now been stopped, its habitat is broken into such small fragments that the current population of 65 exists in seven separate groups, five of which are all female and so will not yield any young.
Cat Ba now does a lively tourist trade - to quote the Lonely Planet guide, the number of hotel rooms has expanded 20-fold in a decade. Apparently there is now talk of an airport.
And why not? I spent a couple of days in Ha Long Bay some years ago: the vista that nature has carved from the limestone is extraordinary, particularly just after dawn when the hills appear to float on the spectral morning mists.
But no creature that needs space and trees and a natural soundscape can survive such an onslaught.
There is a conservation project on the island and so far it is keeping the langurs alive. But perhaps this is an indication of their true status - they are living on the terms that humanity dictates.
Regular readers who have issues with the notion of anthropogenic climate change will probably like to know that this is not mentioned in the report at all as a cause of the primates' decline.
And that's not unexpected. As I've mentioned before on these pages, when you look through the Red List of Threatened Species - not just for primates, but for everything - it is loss of habitat that emerges again and again as the number one issue driving plants and animals towards extinction, encapsulated most spectacularly in places such as Ha Long Bay (which is not to say that specialists don't expect climate change to become a more important issue in time).
When you look at where the 25 species are clustered and think about the progress of human societies around the world, something else that probably won't be surprising is that East Asia emerges as one of the "hotspots".
The other continent well represented is Africa. That's partly because it has a naturally high number of primate species to start with, but also because human population growth and deforestation rates are high, and in areas where the effective rule of law is suspect (Madagascar, recently) or torn by conflict (much of West Africa the last few decades) hunting, poaching and illegal logging inevitably soar.
In one sense, Primate in Peril tells us little that we don't already know about our world. But it does throw into stark relief the trends that are affecting biodiversity and nature across the planet, and is well worth a read.
This is the family, after all, to which we belong.