Everything you need to know about the huge conservation challenges facing the lemurs and a ACTION PLAN to save them from extinction is summarized in Lemurs of Madagascar – a Strategy for their Conservation 2013-16 published by IUCN’s Primate Specialist Group.
Lemurs – worth saving (Photo: Alex Kasterine)
The challenge is huge. 94% of the 103 lemur taxa are threatened with extinction – an increase from 66% in 2005. A major factor was the break down of law and order in the years of the “transitional” government during which time habitats in national parks were destroyed for timber, farming and mining. Lemurs are also hunted for bush meat. This what lemurs sound like in the forest.
Whilst the challenges remain huge, the authors do not see the situation as hopeless. They see the successful conservation of the species resting on three elements – working with communities, supporting ecotourism and field based research.
Madagascar has a strong tradition of community-based guide associations and other local groups working to achieve conservation in the areas surrounding key protected areas. Where there has been adequate training and basic support, this has worked very well, especially in places like Andasibe, Ranomafana, Maroantsetra, Daraina, Sahamalaza, Menabe, and many other sites. Indeed, in some areas such as Andasibe, local guide and community associations such as the Association des Guides d’Andasibe (AGA) and Mitsinjo have even created their own community reserves adjacent to national protected areas. These community groups can be supported at very low cost, and the models that already exist can be replicated in virtually every one of the priority project sites identified here.
Lemurs at London Zoo (Photo: Alex Kasterine)
The second key element is closely associated with the first, and focuses on the development of lemur ecotourism. Lemurs are already Madagascar’s number one tourist attraction, and the number of sites to visit can be increased tenfold over the next five years, and probably a hundredfold over the next decade if adequate funding is available. Primate ecotourism, and especially primate watching and primate life-listing based on the bird model is taking, and Madagascar is the number one destination for primate ecotourism in the world. There is simply no other place on Earth where one can see as many species in a short visit as in Madagascar, where a 7–10-day trip is sure to result in sighting of 15–20 species in the wild. This is a major asset for Madagascar, and should result in numerous economic benefits in terms of livelihood development for local communities and a major source of foreign exchange for the country as a whole. Indeed, in spite of the unstable political situation, tourism is still one of the largest foreign exchange earners for the country. But the potential is far greater, and there is no reason why
tourism should not become the number one foreign exchange earner in the next five years. Lemurs hold the key to making this happen.
The third key element is maintaining a long-term research presence in important sites and creating new research projects on species and in areas not yet benefiting from such a presence