Emergency three-year action plan for lemurs

Primatologists from Bristol Zoological Society, Conservation International, and the IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group have developed an emergency three-year action plan for lemurs, Madagascar’s endemic group of primates.

Red-ruffed lemur (Varecia rubra)

Outlined in a paper published in the journal Science today, the action plan contains strategies for 30 different priority sites for lemur conservation and aims to help fundraise for individual projects. The major objectives of the action plan include:

  • stabilizing the immediate crisis in priority areas.
  • laying the groundwork for longer-term actions in all habitats that are crucial for preventing lemur extinctions.
  • the promotion and expansion of ecotourism; lemurs represent Madagascar’s most distinctive ‘brand’ for tourism, providing livelihoods for the rural poor in environmentally-sensitive regions and often fostering local valuation of primates and ecosystems.
  • sustaining and expanding the long-term research presence in critical lemur sites; field stations that support a permanent presence of local and international field workers can serve as training grounds for Malagasy scientists while deterring illegal hunting and logging.

Inhabiting the shrinking and fragmented tropical and subtropical forests of Madagascar, lemurs are facing a grave risk of extinction. Lemurs have important ecological roles and are essential to maintaining the island’s unique forests. Their loss could trigger the extinction of other species in this fragile forest community.

Illegal logging of rosewood and ebony, mining, and slash-and-burn agriculture are all causing lemur population declines. Combined with increasing rates of poaching for bush meat, which has drastically increased since the onset of the island’s political crisis in 2009, and loss of funding for environmental programs by most international donors since the political crisis started, has delayed the creation of new protected areas and reduced the governmental presence and control in many regions.

Draft assessments on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ indicate that over 90% of lemur species are threatened with extinction. For example, in several parts of the northeastern rainforests, Large-bodied Indris (Indri indri) and Diademed Sifaka (Propithecus diadema) are in danger of becoming extinct. It is imperative that lemur conservation advances quickly and strategically.

Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Head of Research at Bristol Zoo Gardens and Vice-Chair for Madagascar of the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN's Species Survival Commission said, "Despite profound threats to lemurs, which have been exacerbated by the five-year political crisis, we believe there is still hope. Past successes demonstrate that collaboration between local communities, non-governmental organisations and researchers can protect imperiled primate species. We urgently invite all stakeholders to join our efforts to meet the action plan's goals and to ensure the continued existence of lemurs and the considerable biological, cultural and economic richness they represent. Madagascar - and the world - would undoubtedly be much poorer without them."

For more information, please contact:
Dr Christoph Schwitzer, cschwitzer@bristolzoo.org.uk

Work area: 
Protected Areas
Red List
Climate Change
Regional species initiatives
Wildlife trade
Biodiversity indicators
Conservation Breeding
Conservation Planning
South America
North America
East and Southern Africa
West and Central Africa
West Asia
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