Lemurs are under threat, with 90 percent of the 106 known lemur species falling under the category of near extinction. This is a huge increase from 2008, when less than half of the species were at-risk. The lemur is native only to Madagascar.
In a “Policy Forum” commentary titled “Averting Lemur Extinctions amid Madagascar’s Political Crisis” the journal Science, an international team of researchers have come together to propose a three-year emergency action plan to prevent lemurs from becoming extinct.
This renewed plan is a step towards amplifying the goals of a plan launched launch last year to increase public awareness of the conservation of lemurs, Ian Colquhoun, one of the authors of the paper and an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at University of Western Ontario told the Christian Science Monitor.
The primatologists proposed an overall budget of $7.6 million for conservation actions in 30 priority sites in Madagascar.
Unlike continental species, lemurs usually occupy small ecological niches. In an area inhabited by a dozen lemur species, for example, some might be fruit specialists, some would only eat leaves, and others would only be nocturnal, says Dr. Colquhoun.
Because of this specialization, lemurs’ habitats are very limited, and are become even more so due to deforestation and illegal logging. Lemurs are also hunted for their meat, further threatening their existence, said researchers.
“The creation of new protected areas has continued despite political instability brought on by the unconstitutional change of government in early 2009. However, this process has been slowed by a breakdown of government presence and control in many regions, exacerbated by suspension of funding for environmental programs by most international donors in the wake of the political crisis,” according to the paper.
Other conservation efforts include working with local communities and encouraging long-term research efforts – on areas such as ethnoprimatology (a study of interactions between humans and other primates) – in critical lemur sites, said researchers.