the status of poorly known species, they find it necessary to add to the endangered list.
To prevent the extinction of the world’s nonhuman primates, the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission put together a Global Strategy for Primate Conservation in 1977. This document (Mittermeier, 1977) was the first effort to take a worldwide view of primate conservation problems, and its purpose was to make the Primate Specialist Group’s goal of maintaining the current diversity of the Order of Primates a reality. It placed dual emphasis on ensuring the survival of endangered species wherever they occur and on providing effective protection for large numbers of primates in areas of high primate diversity or abundance. This original Global Strategy, which is now out of date, is being updated by a series of new regional plans for Africa (Oates, 1986), Asia (Eudey, 1987), Madagascar, and the Neotropical region, which will guide primate conservation activities for the remainder of this decade.
To find the financial support for the activities identified in the original Global Strategy, the World Wildlife Fund established a special Primate Program in 1979. Since that time, the program has funded and helped implement more than 150 projects, large and small, in 31 different countries, and it continues to grow. In addition, the program produces a wide variety of educational materials and publishes Primate Conservation, the newsletter and journal of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, which is the major means of communication among the world’s primate conservationists.
A number of other organizations have also helped to support projects identified by the Primate Specialist Group, among them the New York Zoological Society, the Wildlife Preservation Trust International, the African Wildlife Foundation, the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society, the Brookfield Zoo, and the Frankfurt Zoological Society, to name just a few. Although the combined efforts of the World Wildlife Fund Primate Program and the other organizations have achieved a great deal on behalf of primates over the past decade, it is clear that much more will have to be done over the next few years to ensure that all of the world’s 200 primate species are still with us as we enter the next century.
Two tropical countries, Brazil and Madagascar, are particularly important in efforts to conserve primate diversity, since they alone are home to 40% of the world’s living primate species. Brazil, with 357 million hectares of tropical forest, is by far the richest country in the world for this biome, containing more than three times more forest than the next country on the list, which is Indonesia, and 30% of all the tropical forest on our planet (Table 16–1). Not surprisingly, Brazil is also home to far more primates than any other country; its 53 species account for about 27%, or one in every four, primates in the world (Table 16–2).
Although one usually hears much more about Amazonia, the highest priority area within Brazil is its Atlantic forest region, which is the most developed and most devastated part of the country. The Atlantic forest is a unique series of ecosystems quite distinct from the much more extensive Amazonian forests to the northwest. At one time, it stretched pretty much continuously from the state of Rio Grande do Norte at the easternmost tip of South America out as far as Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil, and it included some of the