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The fragmentation of forests can hasten the decline of a monkey population by making common parasites more abundant and introducing new ones, according to research published in Science this week.

Over four years, Thomas Gillespie and colleagues compared groups of Colobus monkeys living in an undisturbed forest in the Kibale National Park, western Uganda, with those living in surrounding forests that have been broken into fragments by human activity. They found that the number of monkeys living in the park remained stable whereas the monkey population in the fragmented forests fell by 20 per cent.

The number of parasites that affect primates were also higher in the forest fragments. The authors say that there is undoubtedly a higher risk of infection in the disturbed forests and that humans and livestock may be responsible for the increase in parasites.

Link to the full article in Science