Theme & Focus


What are primates?

Primates are a distinct group of mammals, comprising some 280 species in 12 families, varying in size from the 200 kg Eastern Gorilla to the tiny 30 g Madame Berthe’s Mouse lemur. They are characterized by well developed binocular vision which enables stereoscopic depth perception, specialization of hands and feet with opposable thumbs for grasping, and enlarged cerebral hemispheres. Primates include humans, apes, monkeys, and other related forms such as lemurs, lorises, galagos, and tarsiers. Some are highly intelligent and are capable of delicate manipulations with their hands and feet, allowing some to even invent and use tools.

Non -human primates occur principally in tropical and subtropical regions (although a few species can be found in the temperate zones of China and Japan) throughout much of Africa, Asia, central and south America, where they live in different habitat types.  Except for one species in Europe, they are generally absent from there and north America and Australasia. Lemurs occur only on Madagascar and there are many different species within that one island. Galagos, gorillas, chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, drills, mandrills, and baboons, occur in Africa, orang utans, gibbons, macaques, langurs, tarsiers, and lorises are Asian in distribution, while howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, tamarins, and the tiny marmosets occur in tropical central and South America.

Many species of primates have suffered severe population declines due to mainly human -related factors such as habitat destruction, poaching for the wildlife trade (both legally and illegally) as well as for bush meat. Most  primate species are arboreal, living in trees, but are also adapted  to search for food on the ground. Most species are omnivorous but some feed strictly on leaves and other green plant parts whereas others prefer fruits. Worldwide,   60% of all primate species are threatened due to habitat destruction and some species are already critically endangered and close to extinction. Many species are an integral part of human cultures throughout the world and are strongly associated in religious practices, e.g. Hanuman is worshipped as the monkey god in the Hindu faith.

Primates have been a source of human fascination and are a source of attraction and entertainment at zoological gardens, circuses, and amusement parks throughout the world. This trend is slowly changing as people begin to realise the importance of not confining animals to captivity. Some are (usually illegally) kept as household pets while many others have adapted to life around human settlements. These have become commensals of man, and are often very opportunistic, raiding crops and orchards or entering homes to steal food.


There are numerous websites on primates and their conservation which prospective participants can start to surf for relevant material to write their essays.

The ASiS International Essay Writing Competition 2018 (AIWC) would like to hear the views of school students worldwide on the conservation of primates throughout the world and the repercussions on their long term survival  resulting from habitat loss, wildlife trade, and hunting for bush meat as well as the efforts undertaken to combat these. In this respect, prospective participants are encouraged where relevant, to:

Give a clear cut definition of the issue at hand in the topic chosen.

Give their perceptions of the situation globally or in your respective countries, or both.

Outline the roles of the government, non-governmental organizations, global conservation organizations, educational establishments, and the people in efforts to instill love for primates as an important part of the ecosystem and their contribution to ecology of the habitats they inhabit.

Focus on one or more programmes in your country or globally to instill awareness on primate conservation and the efforts to minimize the loss of pristine primate habitat, as well as the hunting and trapping of primates for food and the global trade in wildlife.

We would also encourage you to draw on your personal experiences when possible and focus on providing your own creative solutions to ensure the inculcation of moral values among the citizens of your country and the efforts to put a stop to the clearing and destroying of forests, especially those which have healthy populations of primates.

Participants are strongly advised to read the terms and conditions as well as the frequently asked questions before writing your essays.