Frank Vassen on flickr / CC-by-2.0Two weeks ago, I wrote about the drastic measures to save critically endangered tortoises in Madagascar.
Shortly afterwards, I read another incredible BBC report by David Shukman titled Madagascar's lemurs cling to survival.
Last year, Paw Mane Fin's own Vickie Sam Paget wrote Does Madagascar's Political Crisis Spell Extinction For The Lemur? and once again it became obvious to me that weak governance, habitat loss, and extreme poverty has hastened the loss of lemurs.
The IUCN Lemurs of Madagascar 197-page Strategy for their Conservation 2013 - 2016 document stated:
"With almost 94% of all lemur taxa (for which sufficient data were available to enable their assessment against the Red List criteria) now classified as being threatened with extinction, this status review indicates that lemurs are probably the most endangered mammal group worldwide."
Critically Endangered Bamboo Lemur or Gentle Lemur (Prolemur Simus)
Brian Gratwicke on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
As quoted in Shukman's article, Professor Jonah Ratsimbazafy, Co-Vice Chair of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group and Secretary General of GERP (Groupe d’étude et de recherche sur les primates), explained:
"Just as fish cannot survive without water, lemurs cannot survive without forest, but less than 10% of the original Madagascar forest is left."
How Smart Is a Lemur?
Published on July 15th, 2012
Saving Lemurs Helps Save the Environment and People
Frank Vassen on flickr / CC-by-2.0In a February 25th, 2015 article by Jeremy Hance I was reminded of the value of lemurs to Madagascar and the collective effort to save them.
Incredibly, the Lemur Conservation Network "brings together over 50 conservation groups and research institutes" and allows people to learn about (and support) conservation programs based on the lemur species of their choice.
How Lemurs Help the Environment
Lemurs help pollinate the unique forests in Madagascar (which are home to numerous species of plants and animals). Not only do forests provide shelter, they are extremely important for erosion protection and sources of water.
When lemurs eat fruit, they excrete the seeds which ends up germinating to produce more trees. And when they sip the nectar from flowers, they pollinate various other plants and flowers.
How Lemurs Help the People of Madagascar
Marie Hale on flickr / CC-by-2.0In 2013, the population of Madagascar was a staggering 22.92 million. Yet it is also one of the poorest countries in the world.
As stated in Hance's article, "More than 90 percent of people live on less than $2 a day while half the country's children under five are said to suffer from malnutrition."
Tourism brings in between 200,000 to 300,000 visitors a year to Madagascar. And those numbers were still fairly good despite the Malagasy political crisis in 2009.
As Professor Ratsimbazafy noted, "Lemurs are the goose laying the golden eggs for Madagascar; tourists are not going to come and see empty forests without lemurs. Thousands of families depend on them for their livelihoods."
Critically Endangered Black & White Ruffed Lemur
Who Just Happens to Resemble My History Teacher
What Threatens the Survival of Madagascar's Lemurs?
Mathias Appel / Public DomainIn a February 24th, 2014 Scientific American post by John R. Platt I was astounded to learn the following:
1) 90 of the 101 known lemur species on the island of Madagascar are threatened with extinction (including 22 that are critically endangered).
2) Forests have been chopped or burned down to make room for crops or to fuel the illegal hardwood trade. Apparently, rosewood trees fetch big money (mostly in China) for smugglers.
3) Lemurs have also been hunted for their meat, something that was rare in past decades (even considered bad luck). But, as Shuckman reported "with persistent poverty and widespread hunger, poachers are still setting traps for the animals or shooting them, either for their own consumption or to be sold to others."