Can Madagascar's lemurs be spared from extinction?
Friday, 21 February 2014
An emergency action plan, co-authored by a Oxford Brookes University lecturer, is aiming to help save the lemurs of Madagascar in the middle of the country's current political and economic crisis.
94 per cent of lemur species threatened with extinction, this unique group of
primates is the most threatened mammal group on earth.
found in the forests of the island
of Madagascar, lemurs are
facing an unprecedented extinction risk due to the dramatic loss and
fragmentation of their habitats. Recent illegal
exportation of precious wood is placing further pressure on the island forests.
though prohibited and traditionally considered a taboo, is also escalating as
the demand for subsistence and luxury meat items raised. Political turmoil
during the last years and corruption have facilitated the exploitation of Madagascar's
resources by national and foreign actors.
article published this week in the journal Science,
a multi-national team of lemur conservationists and researchers including Dr
Giuseppe Donati from Oxford Brookes University, stressed the importance of
implementing an emergency IUCN (International
Union for Conservation of Nature) action plan. This
outlines a way forward for saving Madagascar’s 103 lemur species.
Giuseppe Donati, an expert on lemur behaviour and ecology who has been working in
the African island since 1995, said: “After decades of research only recently
we began to realize what we may lose by losing lemurs.
paucity of other mammal and bird families in Madagascar means that lemurs have a
crucial role within the island’s ecological chains, thus making their presence
fundamental for the maintenance of the island’s current biological diversity.
Recent data indicate that forest regeneration of large-seed plant species is
largely slowed down in forests where lemurs have been eradicated. Their loss
would likely trigger extinction cascades.”
Donati added: “Perhaps most astonishing, the total number of recognized lemur
species has been steadily growing in the last decade, thanks to the
increasingly fine-grained genetic techniques. For instance, two new lemur
species were identified last year in areas where scientists have been working
must join our efforts to meet the action plan's objectives and we invite all
potential stakeholders to intervene to ensure the survival of the lemurs now. Madagascar -
and the world - would undoubtedly be much poorer without them."
article, led by the primatologist Dr Christoph Schwitzer, head of research at Bristol Zoo Gardens and vice-chair for Madagascar of theIUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, explains that there is still
hope for lemurs despite the profound problems.Dr Schwitzer said: "Despite profound threats to
lemurs, which have been exacerbated by the five-year political crisis, we
believe there is still hope.”
Schwitzer explained: “Past successes demonstrate that collaboration
between local communities, non-governmental organisations and researchers can
protect imperiled primate species. Madagascar recently held their
first post-crisis presidential elections. There are encouraging signs that the
new president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, will set the conditions for a return
to effective governance and, very importantly, resumption of international
Oxford Brookes’ Department of Social Sciences
webpages have more information on the University’s Primate Conservation. The paper is available to read on the Science website.