Photo Credit: Edward E Louis

Leveraging biodiversity to rebuild fragile ecosystems in northern Madagascar with the Northern sportive lemur, Lepilemur septentrionalis

08.07.2016

CONSERVATION PROBLEM

The Northern Sportive Lemur is arguably the most endangered primate ranked on the IUCN list of the World's 25 Most Endangered Primates. Only found on the northern tip of Madagascar, the Critically Endangered Northern Sportive Lemur is considered one of the most restricted and least protected of all lemur species. The distribution of the Northern Sportive Lemur is essentially limited to one mountain, Montagne des Français, and surrounding forest fragments with approximately 50 individuals remaining for this species.

Habitat loss has followed years of uncontrolled slash and burn practices, massive erosion, and expansion of deserts. Illicit charcoal production continues to destroy the last remaining habitat, making extinction a real possibility for the Northern Sportive Lemur.

The nearby city of Antsiranana has placed a huge demand on natural resource supplies. The invasive eucalyptus tree has been planted to supply charcoal, and delicate sand banks have been collected for construction material.

The unique dietary requirements of the Northern Sportive Lemur prevent the species from surviving in captivity. Thus on-the-ground conservation programmes and community-based protection efforts are the only viable solutions of saving this species.

PROJECT ACTIVITIES

The project team will focus on the incorporation of research, education and community involvement to preserve forests while simultaneously raising the standard of living for people reliant on natural resources.

They will equip individual lemurs with radio-telemetry equipment for monitoring over the coming year in order to learn about habitat use and territory, while looking for essential information for effective conservation. Educational outreach will focus on community-based reforestation, as well as the production and use of fuel efficient stoves and biofuel briquettes, highlighting the opportunity for income-generation. This community engagement will emphasize the interconnectedness of local lemurs, native trees, and people.

PROJECT OUTCOMES

Monitoring data of a significant percentage of the individuals remaining of this species will help determine the habitat use and home range territories. Information regarding the habitat composition will offer insight about forage or nesting preferences which will be vital for reforestation and habitat preservation efforts. Routine monitoring will track any illegal logging activities in the region and be shared with local authorities.

With growing local participation and educational awareness, the project team hopes to achieve a higher adoption of alternative technologies and a reduction in the use of charcoal by participants. All of this will be critical in order to save the lemurs.

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