Making the world a safer place for primates in peril

Jackson, Donald Dale
December 1985
Smithsonian;Dec85, Vol. 16 Issue 9, p100
This article focuses on a campaign being spearheaded by scientist Russell Mittermeier to preserve critical habitat for lemurs, tamarins and other endangered species. Mittermeier and four companions are trekking through a patch of remnant rain forest in a remote part of the state of São Paulo, in southern Brazil, in search of one of the world's rarest, most elusive and most endangered monkeys, the black lion tamarin. Despite its imposing name the black lion weighs barely more than a pound. They show themselves so rarely that they were believed to be extinct, and the 50 to 100 remaining are known to occupy only two protected forest reserves in São Paulo. As field biologist on-the-ground, conservationist and director of the Primate Program of the World Wildlife Fund-U.S., Mittermeier has been the black lions' ardent champion and tireless protector. His mission is to save the planet's 200 or so surviving primate species from extinction. Mittermeier's mandate is a tough assignment. With few exceptions, the world's simians make their living in the tropical forest land of Africa, Asia and Latin America, forests that are being systematically and irreversibly decimated for agriculture, timber and fuel to meet the needs of exploding populations.


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