The Status Of 103 Species Of Lemurs Assessed By Scientists Reveals Alarming Loss And Indicates An Urgent Need To Protect Madagascar’s Globally Important Forests For Primates And People.
Leading conservationists gathered at an IUCN workshop last month in Madagascar, to review the conservation status of the world’s 103 lemur species — the most endangered primate group in the world. The outcomes highlighted the fact that many lemur species are on the very brink of extinction due primarily to habitat loss, and are in need of urgent and effective protection measures.
The conservation status of 91 per cent of the world’s lemur species have now been upgraded to either ‘Critically Endangered’, ‘Endangered’ or ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — an indicator of rampant forest loss which additionally endangers vital ecosystem services that support Madagascar’s people.
Of the world’s 103 different species of lemurs, 23 are now considered ‘Critically Endangered’, 52 are ‘Endangered, 19 are ‘Vulnerable’ and two are ‘Near Threatened’.
Lemurs are in danger of becoming extinct by destruction of their tropical forest habitat on their native island of Madagascar, off Africa’s Indian Ocean coast, where political uncertainty has increased poverty and accelerated illegal logging. Hunting of these animals has also emerged as a more serious threat than previously imagined.
Workshop represents important collaboration between the international conservation, research and zoo communities
Dr. Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International and Chair of IUCN/SSC’s Primate Specialist Group, said: “This new assessment highlights the very high extinction risk faced by Madagascar’s unique lemur fauna and it is indicative of the grave threats to Madagascar biodiversity as a whole, which is vital to supporting its people. As the forests go, so do lemurs and a host of benefits derived from them.”
The workshop, held in Antananarivo, included a welcome speech by British entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson, who is a great fan of lemurs and welcomed the work being done by conservationists to protect these rare creatures. The workshop also had the support of the Ambatovy Nickel Mining Project, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation.
The lemur red-listing and conservation planning workshop was sponsored by the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Ambatovy Minerals S.A., Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite, Conservation International, and the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation.
“This conference is a good example of the growing importance of collaboration between the international conservation, research and zoo communities in the protection of species and habitats. At Bristol Zoo Gardens, we will continue our conservation and research with the aim of increasing the effectiveness of the conservation activities, as well as increasing our understanding of these, and other, critically endangered species” said Dr. Christoph Schwitzer, Head of Research at Bristol Zoo Gardens.
New type of “mouse” lemur discovered
A more positive outcome of the conference has been the discovery of a previously unknown species of lemur — a type of mouse lemur — discovered by Peter Kappeler and his team at the German Primate Center. The new species is found in the Marolambo area of eastern Madagascar. A formal description of the species has not yet been published, meaning it has not yet been given a name. This is the 103rd taxon of lemur known to man.