In honor of Endangered Species Day, we're taking a look at some of the most endangered species that call Nashville Zoo home. It may surprise you that all six of our primate species are considered endangered or critically endangered.
Mexican Spider Monkey
Red Ruffed Lemur
These primate species are from all across the globe but are affected by many of the same threats. Red ruffed lemurs and ring-tailed lemurs can both be found in Madagascar. Siamangs and white-cheeked gibbons can be found in Southeast Asia, and Mexican spider monkeys and cotton-top tamarins live in South America.
Why are these primates endangered?
While each species experiences unique threats based on the specific region they live in, there is a common thread through all of the issues facing them: humans.
While many species are threatened by habitat loss, lemurs are affected disproportionately. Over 100 species of lemurs call Madagascar home and there is low availability of sustainable territory. Habitat fragmentation (largely caused by unsustainable agricultural practices), logging, and deforestation are practices that contribute to this critical threat.
Siamangs and gibbons are threatened by the use of palm oil and other forms of agricultural expansion. Palm oil, produced from the fruit of the oil palm tree, is used in many ways but it is a common ingredient in packaged products in the United States. Much of the territory called home by the siamangs and gibbons has been converted into palm oil plantations. Without a decrease in palm oil demand, it is possible that 60% of suitable habitats in Southeast Asia will be lost in the next twenty years. Learn more about the palm oil crisis here
Mexican spider monkeys and cotton-top tamarins are threatened by the pet trade and habitat loss. Because Mexican spider monkeys and cotton-top tamarins are smaller in size, live capture and sale is common. It is unclear how much of the population is decreasing as a result of the pet trade, but it is considered a significant threat based on the number of documented confiscations each year. Habitat fragmentation, deforestation, and unsustainable agriculture are also threats to these species.
Your Choices Matter
Support your local zoo: Nashville Zoo participates in Species Survival Plans® (SSP) with many other zoos worldwide. Each SSP carefully manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining captive population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. When we cannot be actively involved, proceeds gained from your support are donated to other conservation programs.
Advocate for sustainably produced Palm Oil: Because of the number of products produced using palm oil, it is probably not realistic to cut it out of your life completely. To learn more about what sustainable palm oil growth is, read our blog post on palm oil here.
Shop responsibly: It can be difficult to check for products that contain palm oil for sustainability certifications. Use the Palm Oil Shopping App (available in Google Play or the App Store) to easily check the status of the products you purchase.