The primate extinction crisis in China: immediate challenges and a way forward

Baoguo Li, Ming Li, Jinhua Li, Pengfei Fan, Qingyong Ni, Jiqi Lu, Xuming Zhou, Yongcheng Long, Zhigang Jiang, Peng Zhang, Zhipang Huang, Chenming Huang, Xuelong Jiang, Ruliang Pan, Sidney Gouveia, Ricardo Dobrovolski, Cyril C. Grueter, Charles Oxnard, Colin Groves, Alejandro EstradaPaul A. Garber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


China is facing an unprecedented set of challenges in balancing the effects of economic development and global climate change with environmental protection and maintaining biodiversity. Although positive steps have been undertaken to remedy this situation, currently 80% of China’s 25 extant primate species are threatened, 15–18 species have population sizes of less than 3000 individuals, and two species of gibbons and one species of langur have been extirpated over the past few decades. Today, virtually all species of primates in China inhabit fragmented landscapes and are distributed in small isolated subpopulations with limited opportunities to exchange individuals or genetic information. Here we present a historical framework examining how human-induced environmental changes, particularly since the second half of the 20th century, accelerated primate population decline in China. In addition, we modeled the expected spatial conflict between agricultural expansion and primate distributions over the next 25–75 years and assessed the current overlap between protected areas and primate distributions. Depending on the assumptions of the spatial conflict model, primate distributions are expected to decline by an additional 51–87% by the year 2100. Thus, unless large-scale conservation policies are implemented immediately the current trend of primate population decline, local extirpation, and species extinctions will accelerate. To mitigate against such extinction scenarios, we advocate the creation of a Chinese national agency and repository of environmental information focused on public awareness and education, the implementation of targeted programs of habitat restoration designed to return impacted forests to a more natural state especially within and at the boundaries of nature reserves, the establishment of additional protect areas, and the construction of a latticework of corridors connecting isolated primate subpopulations. This comprehensive approach offers the most effective way to protect China’s animal and plant biodiversity, including its endangered primate populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3301-3327
Number of pages27
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number13
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Environmental sustainability
  • Extinction risk
  • Habitat restoration
  • Primate conservation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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