The declining population of non-human primates, like monkeysapestarsiers or prosimians, mainly due to deforestation and habitat loss, has long been a concern for researchers. At least 68 per cent of all primates are in danger of extinction, while 93 per cent have declining populations globally.

But a new study released Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, shows that primates have healthier populations when their range overlaps with Indigenous peoples’ lands. The authors conclude that, in order to save primates, we need to protect Indigenous autonomy over their territory.

This is the latest paper to acknowledge that Indigenous peoples and their traditional beliefs, practices and knowledge systems based on living with local ecosystems and exploiting them sustainably, hold important conservation lessons for the world.

“In writing this paper, the realisation we came to was that probably the single most important action one could take to prevent the primate extinction crisis is to allow Indigenous peoples to maintain sovereignty over their land,” says anthropologist Paul Garber, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois and one of the lead authors of the new study.

Speaking to Mongabay by video call from his home in the United States, Garber says one of their goals was to conduct a global study that could serve as a base for further research. The authors, which include 29 biologists, anthropologists, ecologists and other researchers around the world, collected data from the Neotropics (Mexico, Central and South America), Asia and Africa, where most of the over 500 species of primates live.

What they found was that 93 per cent of all primate species found in non-Indigenous territories were classified as threatened (either Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered) by the IUCN. However, only 55 per cent of primate species whose range overlaps with Indigenous territory were classified as threatened – and this number only decreases the greater the overlap between primate range and Indigenous territory.

“There is no primate species that’s only found on Indigenous lands,” says Garber. “But what we found is that as the per cent of the species range increases on Indigenous peoples’ lands, so when it’s 25 per cent 50 per cent [on Indigenous lands], then those species are less likely to be considered threatened, or to have declining populations. So they are more correlational.”

Read the full article about saving primates from extinction by Kimberley Brown at Eco-Business.