Are Lemurs Going Extinct?

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By 2017-12-06

By Shani Asokan

Ceylon Today Features The ring-tailed Lemurs, native to the Maromizaha forest in Madagascar are now set to be listed as one of the twenty-five most endangered primates in the world.

Approximately two decades ago, these primates, with their strikingly long, black and white striped tail were numbered in the several hundreds of thousands throughout Madagascar. However, according to recent reports of a census that was carried out, their numbers have crashed severely, leaving the remnants of the ring-tailed lemur population at just under three thousand.

According to leading author Christoph Schwitzer, lemurs are the most abundant of primates in most zoos around the world, yet in their own natural habitats, they are vanishing rapidly. While this crash in the population is both sudden and drastic, the reasons are not sparse. Three major factors that contribute to this rapid decline have been identified. These are the rapid habitat loss, illegal hunting, and illegal pet-trade. All of these factors stem from a single root.

Sometime over the last two years, the government of Madagascar declared the Maromizaha forest to be a national park, effectively banning most of the practices that brought an income to the citizens in the surrounding villages. These included logging, mining, slash-and-burn farming, and charcoal burning. Simultaneously, the government also joined the UN's Sustainable Development Goals aimed at combating corruption, protecting forests, increasing bio-diversity, and eliminating poverty by 2030.

Though these initiatives were meant to go hand-in-hand, they have both failed to stem corruption and have in fact, increased deforestation.

Up until these initiatives, each farmer would burn a new part of the forest each year to plant their crops. Unable to do this now, they have resorted to other illegal practices, like logging and mining deep inside the forest. However, still unable to provide food for their families, they have turned to hunting in the forest, preying upon the most common meat found in the Maromizaha, the lemurs.

"An empty stomach has no ears," says Madagascan Lemur expert Jonah Ratsimbazafy. "If people can't eat, how can you save the lemurs?" These people have bigger problems to worry about. With no money to provide food, education and health for their families, they have no option but to turn to the forest to keep them going.

They aren't going to commit to the conservation efforts when they themselves are dying. If this keeps going, the ring-tailed lemur will be long gone in just a few years. Many different species of Madagascan Lemurs have been on the 'Most Endangered' list over the years, but with conservation efforts, the last one listed was in 2012. Now, it looks like the ring-tailed lemur will put Lemurs back on the list with these horrifyingly low numbers.

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