Lemur conservation is continuing to attract much needed attention which can help raise the profile of the cause on the international stage for all of Madagascar’s 113 known lemur species.
On Wednesday 25 October, the United Kingdom’s Princess Royal visited one of the field stations in Sahamalaza – Iles Radama National Park, where an SOS Grantee, The Lemur Conservation Association (AEECL) is working with local communities to help save threatened lemurs including the Critically Endangered Blue-eyed Black Lemur (Eulemur flavifrons). This amazing species is endemic to this remote part of northern Madagascar and is particularly remarkable for being the only other primate with blue eyes other than mankind.
Her Royal Highness flew to the project in Sahamalaza to visit the station set up 14 years ago by Dr Christoph Schwitzer, a leading conservationist and lemur expert who is now co-chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Primate Specialist Group. Dr Schwitzer constructed the original building at the field station himself out of sun-dried bricks when he was living there for two years studying lemurs.
Fast forward to 2017 and Dr Schwitzer welcomed the Princess, who was joined by the President of Madagascar, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, and the First Lady. Remarking, he explained: “it was the first Royal visit and first presidential visit to the project site. We are really thrilled.”
The group spent around 90 minutes visiting the field station and venturing into the surrounding primary forest where lemurs live in search of Blue-eyed Black lemurs, which are one of the rarest of all 700 primate species on Earth.
The Princess Royal also met with AEECL’s programme director, Guy Randriatahina, as well as Dr Sylviane Volampeno, the Madagascar programme officer for SOS.
Her Royal Highness is understood to have been encouraged to visit the project by her brother, Prince Edward, who is the Royal Patron of Bristol Zoological Society, a founding partner of AEECL.
Of the 113 extant lemur species, 24 are now classified Critically Endangered, 49 are Endangered, and 20 are Vulnerable, equating to 94 percent of the world’s lemur species for which sufficient data is available being classified as threatened with extinction.
Attracting international attention to their plight and to the actions of locally based NGOs working with communities to develop mutually beneficial solutions for protecting these primates while supporting community development is essential. Lemurs are the most threatened group of primates on the planet and represent a part of our global heritage as well as being synonymous with Madagascar - their only natural home.
This story concerns just one of more than 250 threatened species supported by more than 100 projects in the SOS portfolio. Each one completed offers a wealth of practical lessons and insights into conservation action across numerous taxonomic groups and challenges. Explore the SOS project pages and sign up for the SOS newsletter to keep up to date on further news from our grantees and visit the Blue-eyed Black lemur project page here to learn more.