Animals Lemurs talking

Published on February 23rd, 2014 | by James Ayre


90% Of Lemur Species Approaching Extinction — New Action Plan Devised By International Team

True Lemurs, found only on the isolated island of Madagascar, are the most endangered mammalian group on the planet — more than 90% of all known lemur species are rapidly approaching extinction, primarily as the result of deforestation and habitat loss.

Previous conservation efforts have been generally ineffective, so how do you prevent their extinction? Now, an international team composed of prominent primatologists, conservationists and researchers, think they may have a workable solution. The team has devised an action plan to save the 101 species of lemur that live on Madagascar — one which contains “strategies for 30 different priority sites for lemur conservation, and aims to help raise funds for individual projects.”

Lemurs talking

Something to note — ‘true’ lemurs are a clade of primates found only on the island of Madagascar, they are entirely unrelated to any of the animals commonly referred to as ‘lemurs’ that live in South Asia. Those animals aren’t primates, they’re related to rodents. True lemurs are primates that have evolved completely separate from the other clades of primates for the last 65 million years.

The University of Western Ontario provides more:

Ian Colquhoun from Western’s Faculty of Social Science co-authored a ‘Policy Forum’ commentary titled “Averting Lemur Extinctions amid Madagascar’s Political Crisis” for the high-impact journal, Science, with many of the top primatologists in the world, including Christoph Schwitzer, head of research at Bristol Zoo Gardens and vice-chair for Madagascar of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) SSC Primate Specialist Group, and Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International and Chair of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group.

Vital steps outlined by the collaborators include effective management of Madagascar’s protected areas, the creation of more reserves directly managed by local communities, and a long-term research presence in critical lemur sites.

Lemur resting

“Through seed dispersal and attracting income through ecotourism, lemurs have important ecological and economic roles for Madagascar,” states Colquhoun, a professor in Western’s Department of Anthropology and Chair of the Master’s in Environment and Sustainability Program in Western’s Centre for Environment & Sustainability. “I think there is huge potential for Malagasy all over the island to take pride in their lemurs.”

“Native to the shrinking and fragmented tropical and subtropical forests of Madagascar, off Africa’s Indian Ocean coast, lemurs are facing grave extinction risks driven by human disturbance of their habitats, including deforestation, and its effects. Combined with increasing rates of poaching and the loss of funding for environmental programs by most international donors in the wake of the political crisis in Madagascar, challenges to lemur conservation are immense.”

Roughly 90% of Madagascar’s forests have been destroyed in the 2000 years that humans have lived on the island. Much of this loss has been the result of agriculture. Nearly all of Madagascar’s megafauna has gone extinct in those 2000 years — this includes 8 species of giant elephant birds, 2 species of hippopotamus, a very large species of Fossa, a strange unique mammal named Plesiorycteropus, and 17 species of lemurs. One of the extinct lemurs, Archaeoindris, grew to be as large as a full-grown male gorilla.


Image Credit: Talking; Face; and Nap via Flickr CC

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • JaiGuru

    Oh fuck all of you if you let LEMURS go extinct.

  • bgrnathan

    NOT MADE BY NATURE! Just because something exists in nature doesn’t mean it was invented or made by Nature. If all the chemicals necessary to make a cell were left to themselves, “Mother Nature” would have no ability to organize them into a cell. It requires an already existing cell to bring about another cell. The cell exists and reproduces in nature but Nature didn’t invent or design it! Nature didn’t originate the cell or any form of life. An intelligent power outside of nature had to be responsible.

    Natural laws can explain how an airplane or living cell works, but it’s irrational to believe that mere undirected natural laws can bring about the origin of an airplane or a cell. Once you have a complete and living cell then the genetic program and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could the cell have originated naturally when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature? All of the founders of modern science believed in God. Read my Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM

    Only evolution within “kinds” is genetically possible (i.e. varieties of dogs, cats, etc.), but not evolution across “kinds” (i.e. from sea sponge to human). How did species survive if their vital tissues, organs, reproductive systems were still evolving? Survival of the fittest would actually have prevented evolution across kinds! Read my Internet article: WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS! (2nd Edition). I discuss: Punctuated Equilibria, “Junk DNA,” genetics, mutations, natural selection, fossils, genetic and biological similarities between species.

    Natural selection doesn’t produce biological traits or variations. It can only “select” from biological variations that are possible and which have survival value. The real issue is what biological variations are possible, not natural selection. Only limited evolution, variations of already existing genes and traits are possible. Nature is mindless and has no ability to design and program entirely new genes for entirely new traits.

    What about genetic and biological similarities between species? Genetic information, like other forms of information, cannot happen by chance, so it is more logical to believe that genetic and biological similarities between all forms of life are due to a common Designer who designed similar functions for similar purposes. It doesn’t mean all forms of life are biologically related! Also, “Junk DNA” isn’t junk. These “non-coding” segments of DNA have recently been found to be vital in regulating gene expression (i.e. when, where, and how genes are expressed). Read my popular Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM

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    (B.A. theology/biology)


    * I have had the privilege of being recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who In The East” for my writings on religion and science, and I have given successful lectures (with question and answer time afterwards) defending creation from science before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities

  • Sensibility

    This is not a simple problem with a simple solution. You cannot ask someone to let their family starve so they can save a few animals. Even if these people magically need less food too survive, reforestation will not immediately reverse the downward trend in lemur population.
    Although charity is noble, is it proper to simply donate food indefinitely to Madagascar’s people? Who is willing to assume that responsibility? I’m sure few people on the island want to become dependent on any foreign source for staple foods.

  • Jane

    Food subsidies are the only answer. People will continue to chop down the forests to build rice paddies until international sanctions on food aid to Madagascar are lifted. The events since the 2009 coup led to deforestation for food. That is causing extinction. Rice donations to the rural poor = no need to cut down more forests to grow rice.

    • CrissCross

      The deforestation of Madagascar cannot be blamed on the recent coup or the current government. It has been going on for decades unabated. In the 1970′s there were people describing Madagascar as “bleeding” because the sea was red with the soil washed away after deforestation.
      Food subsidies just make buying food easier. Where are they to buy food from? These are peasants. They dont get food at a shiny supermarket. They eat what they can grow. The food they eat comes from the ground they clear. A subsidy gives them a pile of paper money to spend at a shop that is a two day bus ride away. They need shoes, so guess what that money will buy? I guarantee it is not food.
      Rice donations to the poor? NIce benevolent idea, however it neutralizes the earning potential of their only skill. They are agrarian peasants. They eat what they grow and if by some fluke they have an excess they sell it to someone who can pay. Rice donations means you are now competing with their surpluses, but you are undercutting their price. Would you buy rice from a peasant selling surplus produce if there was some donor agency across the road giving it away for free? No. The result is that they will never earn a dime from their surplus and remain stuck in the gutters of poverty. Rice donations simply destroy their future.
      Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he feeds his family every day.
      Your rice donations means that he can no longer apply his knowledge, it has undone what he has learned, he is now a slave reliant on you for rice donations.
      For the lemurs.

  • Regula

    There is a simple way to save them: reforest Madagascar to enlarge and diversify their habitat. Keep people out of these forests. Provide enough plant species to grow under the reforested trees to provide food for the lemurs. Surely, if deforestation equals habitat loss, then reforestation in as similar a way to remaining natural forests, should help to restore habitat and with it, lemur populations.

    • CrissCross

      You havent lived in the underdeveloped world have you?
      What you propose is not “simple”.
      Reforestation? It will take decades to get to a forest ecosystem capable of sustaining a lemur population.
      Keep people out? How?
      On mainland Africa, People are banned from killing elephants & rhinos, elephants & rhinos are kept in protected reserves and are afforded armed guards, some countries even have ‘licence to kill’ rights if you catch a poacher. Yet they are still poached.
      When you are dealing with poor desperate people who must choose between chopping & killing or starvation & death, your simplistic solution will achieve precisely nothing. That poor family will ask why they should die for the sake of a lemur or a tree? That poor family has a good case & poses a good question.
      The majority of laws worldwide are designed to protect the rights of human beings. How do you propose to legislate lemur rights over human rights? How do you suggest the constitution of Madagascar should be modified to allow lemur rights to take preference? How do you achieve that without infringing the rights of the people and without risking an all out revolution & another coup?
      Then there is the funding. How will it be paid for? The government cant even supply water & food for the needy in the country, let alone education & health care. Now you want them to divert what little money they have into planting some trees for the lemurs?
      Then there is corruption. If money is supplied from outside, how do you prevent that money from being allocated to cronies, or diverted into building palaces? The money goes in, palaces are built and peasants have nothing so cut down some forest. That is what has been happening for decades.
      Simplistic solutions, devoid of understanding the true nature of the situation is tinkering around like a gang of amateurs. It is how we got to such a grave situation.

      • Regula

        That is certainly one of the problems: poverty. But elsewhere people were also poor and agreed in time that their wildlife has to be preserved. Yes there are poachers, but that is less than direct exploitation. And with a bit of imagination, ways of life with the lemurs and livelihood for the people can be produced. It was doen elsewhere with eco-tourism. But admittedly, if the government is corrupt and cannot understand that the lemurs are the better investment in the long run rather than palaces, there is a wall there that is difficult to overcome.

        As to the poor people who cut a piece of forest to farm or plant commercial plantations – without wildlife, the soil will not naturally remain fertile and after a relatively short period the farming dries up.
        But admittedly, I am not familiar enough with Madagascar to know exactly where the problems are there. But it is unfortunate that so many forests get chopped down. The forest also can provide a livelihood if used with care.

        • CrissCross

          Again lofty and dreamy.
          We dont have the decades it takes to raise a new generation with a new paradigm. The problem was severe decades ago. Now it is beyond critical.
          We have years not decades.

          • Regula

            The sooner you start talking to and convincing the local population to protect the lemurs and not hunt them for food, the greater the chance that they can be saved.

          • JaiGuru

            All the more reason for you to quit dragging your feet and get on with it. When the last ditch effort is the odds you’ve been handed, you play those odds. Shut up or get to work.

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