Primate experts from around the world have come together to write a 185 page document outlining a three-year strategy for the conservation of the lemurs of Madagascar. In 2012 leading conservationists gathered at a summit meeting organised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) to review the conservation status of the world’s then 103 (meanwhile 104) lemur species – the most endangered mammal group in the world.
Of the 103 species, 24 are now listed as ‘Critically Endangered’, 49 are ‘Endangered’ and 20 are ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. This equates to almost 94 percent of the world’s lemur species, for which sufficient data were available to enable their assessment against Red List criteria. Lemurs are in danger of becoming extinct due to the destruction of their tropical forest habitat on their native island of Madagascar, off Africa’s Indian Ocean coast, through subsistence agriculture and illegal logging. Lemurs are also increasingly hunted for food.
“The strategy effectively contains 30 action plans for 30 different priority sites for lemur conservation,” says Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Head of Research at Bristol Zoo Gardens and Red List Authority Focal Point for the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group. “Our aim will be to use the document to help fundraising for individual projects. The fact is that if we don’t act now we risk losing a species of lemur for the first time in two centuries. The importance of the projects we’ve outlined in this document simply cannot be overstated.”
The document had a total of 83 authors and the species are divided into threat categories. The projects all have individual funding targets from $50,000 to $500,000 equating to a budget of $7.628 million over three years.
“There are three things we know work when it comes to tackling conservation in the field, which are cheap and simple to implement in different areas,” says Dr Russ Mittermeier, President of Conservation International and Chair of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group. “First working on grassroots projects with local communities so people can make a difference for themselves, secondly supporting eco-tourism projects and thirdly establishing research stations as a permanent facility to protect against loggers and hunters.”
The document will be officially launched in Madagascar on Wednesday 31st July to an audience of ambassadors, NGOs, Ministers, government officials, fundraisers, foundations and media.
“I am an optimist, so I wouldn’t give up on any species of lemur,” continues Dr Schwitzer. “This document shows how well people can work together when species are on the brink. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved here but the hard work is yet to come.”