Madagascar lemurs in danger of extinction

A stark warning has been sounded that the world renowned lemurs of Madagascar may be wiped out from living in the wild within the next quarter century.

Lemurs face extinction in the wild over next quarter of a century due to deforestation in Madagascar

Lemurs face extinction in the wild over the next quarter of a century due to deforestation in Madagascar Image by Tambako The Jaguar / CC BY 2.0

The threat to the iconic animals comes from the alarming rate of deforestation and hunting, according to a leading specialist in the area, Professor Jonah Ratsimbazafy.

The Director of a major centre for primate research in the African country has claimed that virtually all of  the 106 remaining species of lemur are at risk of extinction – with many in the category of being “critically endangered.”

The BBC reported that the lemur depends on a habitat of types of forest now only found in Madagascar. Prof. Ratsimbazafy said that in the same way as fish are unable to survive outside of water, these animals need forests, but the problem is that less than 10% of the original acreage was now left in the country. He emphasised that if the rate of deforestation continues unabated as it is at present, there would be none left – with dire consequences for the primates on the island.

The population there is so poor – most live on less than $2 a day - that they seek to create new farmland by cutting down the trees. And even though in theory vast tracts are government protected areas, the forest is cleared and undergrowth scorched to make room for extra crops.

The claim by conservationists is that this slash-and-burn farming is counterproductive as it leaves the soil damaged within a few years. A last-gasp effort is being made to turn things around by hiring locals to protect the forest and to educate the farmers than lemurs can be more valuable to tourism by staying alive rather than dying with the disappearing forests.

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