Researchers call for action to protect remaining areas of lowland forests of Madagascar to save endangered lemurs

Wednesday, 06 November 2019

Lemur News

Rapid human encroachment in Madagascar, especially in the more accessible lowland areas, is threatening the existence of lemurs, according to a team of Oxford Brookes University academics. A new study indicates that the few lowland rainforests left in Madagascar are crucial for lemur conservation.

The study, led by Dr Marco Campera and Dr Giuseppe Donati from Oxford Brookes University's Department of Social Sciences, has been published in Mammal Review and titled Elevation gradients of lemur abundance emphasise the importance of Madagascar’s lowland rainforest for conservation of endemic taxa

The research involved the analysis of a large data-set, which showed that lemurs are being displaced to higher altitudes, while lowland rainforests remain important for the primates’ conservation. The research focused on understanding how lemurs are distributed along elevational ranges and the implications for their conservation. Their paper shows that despite the ecological flexibility of many lemurs, lowland rainforests are key to the survival of this extraordinary group of primates. 

Lemurs are regarded as the most endangered mammal group in the world - more than 94 per cent of lemur species are threatened with extinction. Their survival has been affected by political turmoil, deforestation and illegal hunting. Lead author Dr Marco Campera commented: “Very few lowland forests remain in Madagascar and most of them have been poorly studied compared to areas at mid-elevations. Our research group found that the few remaining forests at low elevations host the highest abundance of lemurs".

Senior author Dr Giuseppe Donati added: "It is crucial to promote research and conservation management in the few remaining patches of lowland rainforests to understand the evolutionary history of the lemurs and to ensure the best possible protection of these unique primates.” 

This study involved a multi-national team, including additional colleagues from Oxford Brookes - Professor Anna Nekaris and Dr Michela Balestri and Dr Luca Santini, from Radboud University in the Netherlands.

Oxford Brookes University offers a distinctive primatology programme, where students from all over the world come to Oxford to learn about primate conservation. They work collaboratively to find real-world solutions to urgent environmental issues. Find out more about the courses on offer on the University website

Picture credit: Microcebus tanosi anosy mouse lemur by George Selley