Photo Courtesy of Frontier Madagascar Forest
Prominent conservation bodies from around the world assembled for a workshop this month, in a bid to critically assess the state of the world’s lemur populations. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission recently demonstrated the need for urgent action, in a bid to reverse extinction rates of the world’s most endangered primate group.
Madagascar is the largest oceanic island on earth measuring 600,000 square kilometers. The island's size, broad habitat range and 182 million year separation from mainland Africa, has resulted in a high level of species endemicity. The most predominant of all species and perhaps the most widely recognised are the lemur populations inhabiting the island. There are currently 103 known species of lemur occupying the ever decreasing forests of Madagascar; however populations are rapidly declining at an accelerated rate due to anthropogenic influences.
This month’s conference highlighted the significant threats to lemur populations through the revision of the IUCN red list classifications. 91% of the world’s lemur species have now been raised to the next sequential conservation category – upgrading the majority of all species to either ‘Vulnerable’ ‘Endangered’, and more notably ‘Critically Endangered’. As a result, it has been speculated that lemurs are potentially the most endangered group of vertebrate organisms in any region in the world. The acceleration of forest destruction, combined with the elevation of illegal hunting of lemurs is the source of the detrimental impacts on most populations.
It is evident that efforts must be channeled into the protection of these extraordinary creatures; delegates from across the world were united in this decision which is encouraging for the future security of all lemur populations. Not only do lemurs have a vital place within the Madagascan forest ecosystem, but they are an essential asset to the economic growth and tourism potential of Madagascar. The preservation of lemurs can therefore aid in the alleviation of poverty through income to local communities, and therefore their value to the citizens of Madagascar must be realized and developed upon.
Frontier has been dedicated to the conservation of the Madagascan forest for 10 years - conducting essential research into the presence, ranges, and anthropogenic impacts upon lemur populations. Frontier offers a range of ooportunities to volunteer abroad, including the Madagascar Wildlife Conservation Adventure, which aims to make a vital contribution to the future security of the forests. With further recognition of the plight of lemurs, it is hoped that further measures can be taken to protect these fragile populations from extinction.
By Laura Burton