Thursday, November 8, 2007

Monkey business

A recent visit to the San Francisco Zoo served as an unexpected reminder of the costs of war.
Amusement at the antics of monkeys sporting muttonchops and mohawks (right) lasted only as long as it took to glance at the sign beside them. These were François' langur, native to "[m]oist forests and well-sheltered rocky areas in the limestone hills and caves of undisturbed China and Vietnam." And that's where the problem lies. A sizable portion of that area's been disturbed -- destroyed by bombing during the Vietnam War. Though there're some in zoos, fewer and fewer are found in their habitats. Thus these leaf-monkeys, as they're also known, appear in Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an appendix reserved for "species that, although not necessarily threatened with extinction, may become so unless trade is strictly regulated in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival."
It's a story one can tell about any number of species, and not just with respect to long-past conflicts.
This autumn, for instance, it's large primates that're suffering. In "Gorillas in the Crossfire," Alexis Okeowo reported in Time that guerrilla action at the Congo-Uganda-Rwanda border was threatening the scant 700 mountain gorillas still in existence. Describing gorillas' confusion on hearing rebel gunshots in the park where they reside, Samantha Newport of Wildlife Direct told Okeowo: "This is a horrendous scenario."
Nor is armed conflict all that threatens these species. Equally endangering are poachers, agriculture and other human activities that shrink habitats, and trade that thrives without concern for conservation. No surprise then to find an endangered species NGO that's named itself Wildlife at Risk. Acronym? WAR.