These charismatic icons are endemic to Madagascar. This means all five families, 15 genera and 111 species of lemurs are found nowhere else in the world and so 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.
Lemurs are Madagascar’s most distinctive global brand and a major asset in scientific, cultural, and economic terms. They are also the basis of a major ecotourism industry that grows every year and provides multiple benefits to locals living near lemur habitats.
Furthermore, lemurs play critical ecological roles in maintaining the island’s forest habitats dispersing seeds but also as barometers of a healthy forest ecosystem. Healthy populations indicate a healthy environment and their loss could likely trigger extinction cascades. This would have likely disastrous consequences for local communities who depend on these habitats for their livelihoods, not least for revenues generated by lemur-based tourism.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, over 90% of lemur species are threatened with extinction due to habitat destruction caused by slash-and-burn agriculture and illegal logging, as well as hunting. Combined, these pressures have made lemurs the most threatened mammal group on earth.
Of the 111 lemur species, 24 are currently listed as ‘Critically Endangered’, 49 are ‘Endangered’ and 20 are ‘Vulnerable’. Consequently, fully implementing the Lemur Conservation Strategy published by the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Primate Specialist Group represents a unique chance of reversing this decline.