IUCN through SOS - Save Our Species is now in a position to protect even more of Madagascar’s endemic lemurs– 94 percent of which are threatened with extinction.
Thanks to a significant donation from a private Geneva-based foundation, IUCN can implement the recommendations of the Lemur Conservation Strategy. With this news SOS will continue to help civil society organisations for the next six years with grants allowing them to implement lemur conservation actions starting from January 2017.
Since 2013, IUCN has been working to implement the recommendations of the Lemur Conservation Strategy. This seminal document was prepared with support from Conservation International, the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, and the Bristol Zoological Society and was elaborated by the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s (SSC) Primate Specialist Group (PSG). A special initiative titled SOS Lemurs was initiated at the beginning of 2016 under the auspices of the SOS - Save Our Species partnership created with the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank in 2010.
Today’s announcement is a major step forward in the face of the current global extinction crisis. IUCN will mobilize the knowledge generated by its Red List of Threatened Species™ and the expertise of its Commissions to identify and support the best actions to tackle the threats responsible for the dramatic decline of lemur populations while supporting communities at the grassroots level.
Dr Johanita Ndahimananjara, Minister of Environment, Ecology and Forests welcomed the announcement and said “Lemurs are unique to Madagascar and make a valuable contribution to our country’s global reputation. They are invaluable to Madagascar’s eco-tourism sector. Many people come to our country just to see these wonderful creatures. Our country is facing a rapid degradation of their habitats, the forests. We should save the lemurs through integrated and multi-stakeholder programmes. As an IUCN State member; we believe in the IUCN mission and welcome this initiative helping us protect our natural heritage in a sustainable way.”
By disbursing small to medium-sized grants to existing Madagascar-based conservation actors the SOS model ensures that funds are channelled to where they are most needed. The first 11 projects initiated under SOS Lemurs began in early 2016 and cover 24 species of lemurs. They were made possible thanks to a partnership with several other key donors including the Global Environment Facility, Fondation Segré, Fondation Iris and the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.
Dr Russell A. Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and Executive Vice-Chair of Conservation International said, “Worldwide, lemurs are a most important symbol, Madagascar’s most salient brand and are truly synonymous with the country. They are also the basis of a major ecotourism industry that grows every year and provides multiple benefits to locals living near lemur habitats. What is more, all five families, 15 genera and 111 species of lemurs are endemic to Madagascar and found nowhere else in the world, meaning that their survival depends on strong conservation policies in their natural habitat. Simply put they represent the single highest major primate conservation priority in the world. To save them from extinction and ensure that they provide continued benefits to Madagascar’s people there are three things that we know will work, all of them inexpensive and straightforward to implement. The first is working on grassroots projects with local communities so people can improve their quality of life through conservation; second, by supporting and stimulating targeted ecosystem programmes in key habitats; and third, establishing long-term research stations to learn more of these animals and provide protection against threats like hunting and illegal logging”.
This major boost will allow conservationists to do much more for lemurs. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, of the 111 lemur species, 24 are currently listed as ‘Critically Endangered’, 49 are ‘Endangered’ and 20 are ‘Vulnerable’. This equates to almost 94 percent of the world’s lemur species, for which sufficient data were available to enable their assessment. Consequently, fully implementing the Lemur Conservation Strategy represents a unique chance of reversing this decline.
Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Director of Conservation at Bristol Zoological Society, Deputy Chair and Red List Authority Coordinator for the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group and one of the principal authors of the Lemur Conservation Strategy said, “I am absolutely thrilled. The importance of implementing the Lemur Conservation Strategy simply cannot be overstated. Now we have the means and the tools to help lemurs survive. For the broader benefit of Madagascar and the world, we must not fail.”
It is estimated more than 80% of Madagascar’s forests have been cleared and that between 50,000 and 60,000 km² remains more or less intact. These remaining areas are priority for intervention in order to halt the decline of biodiversity that only exacerbates the problems of poverty.
A hallmark of SOS Lemurs projects to date is the application of a holistic approach to species conservation. Necessarily they incorporate innovative alternative livelihood components to reduce dependence on forest products such as firewood and bush-meat, community supported reforestation activities, patrolling, protected area management, education and awareness raising efforts. These activities build resilience by empowering local communities while ensuring a species conservation ethos remains at the heart of the solution.
Further the news exemplifies IUCN’s unique ability to convene and leverage the energies of a variety of stakeholders in the global conservation community to achieve needs based conservation goals.
Dr Jean-Christophe Vié, Director SOS – Save Our Species and Deputy Director IUCN Global Species Programme said: “We are extremely grateful for the support we have just received. Of course Madagascar faces other environmental and developmental challenges. However, this news represents an important step in the larger journey of helping Malagasy people build resilience and wealth by cherishing their unique natural heritage. With this support we are given an exciting challenge and this initiative is unique in many ways. We are given the means to implement a large scale conservation programme for an entire group of species working with a broad range of organisations; this will be done in a coordinated way and we shall be able to track the impact of our collective action. It is also a confirmation that we are providing an appealing model for donors who want to contribute to the preservation of our environment, in particular the survival of wildlife, making the best use of IUCN’s unique niche and expertise.”