News / Science & Technology

Scientists Sound Alarm Over Lemur Extinction Threat

FILE - Ring-tailed lemurs enjoy a frozen treat on a summer's day, Ramat Gan Safari, near Tel Aviv, July 12, 2012.
FILE - Ring-tailed lemurs enjoy a frozen treat on a summer's day, Ramat Gan Safari, near Tel Aviv, July 12, 2012.
Reuters
Some of the world's top experts in lemurs sounded the alarm Thursday about an imminent extinction threat to these primitive primates that live only in Madagascar and unveiled a three-year plan to try to prevent them from disappearing altogether.

Lemurs are now the world's most threatened mammal group.

Habitat destruction and fragmentation caused by illegal slash-and-burn farming, logging of rosewood and ebony trees and mining are major threats to lemurs, as is bushmeat hunting by impoverished local people, the scientists said.

A five-year political crisis in Madagascar and a broad breakdown of environmental law enforcement have worsened the situation for the roughly 100 species of lemurs, they said.

"Extinctions could begin very soon if nothing is done," said Christoph Schwitzer, head of research at the Bristol Zoological Society in Britain who led a team of 19 scientists that drafted the emergency lemur preservation plan.

The rarest species, the northern sportive lemur, is down to 50 individuals in one or two tiny forest fragments, he said.

"One cyclone or other natural event could wipe out the entire population. In fact, anybody who decides to go out lemur hunting could tip the species over the edge," Schwitzer added.

Their plan identifies 30 priority sites for lemur conservation. It calls for management of protected areas at the local level and a long-term research presence in key locations, and it advocates an expansion of ecotourism focused on lemurs to attract money to the cause.

The scientists, who presented their plan in the journal Science, argue that a significant amount of habitat could be preserved for a relatively small sum in international aid — $7.6 million — and that ecotourism could help pay for the cost.

The scientists said they are appealing to foreign governments and private sources to fund the preservation bid.

Madagascar, an Indian Ocean island off the coast of Africa that is known for its unique wildlife, has been in political turmoil for five years.

A new president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, took office in January, a month after winning the first election since a 2009 coup that plunged Madagascar into a crisis that sharply slowed economic growth and deepened poverty.

Forest habitat eliminated

Lemurs are one of the most primitive types of primate, less advanced than monkeys, apes and humans. They range in size from the one-ounce (30 gram) Madame Berthe's mouse lemur — the smallest living primate — to the 20-pound (9 kg) indri.

Arboreal creatures, they eat leaves, fruits and bugs and have long limbs, flexible toes and fingers and long noses.

They appeared early in primate evolution, about 62 million years ago, not long after the dinosaurs went extinct. More advanced primates never made it to Madagascar, allowing lemurs to thrive and evolve into many different species.

But most of Madagascar's forest land has been eliminated and 94 percent of lemur species are now considered vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

"I would certainly not want to tell my children in 10 or 20 years’ time, when they are old enough to travel to Madagascar, 'Look, this island was once inhabited by creatures called lemurs, but they have gone extinct because your dad, along with many others, was unable to avert their extinction at the time," Schwitzer said.

You May Like

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Finean williams
February 25, 2014 6:34 PM
The human race will have yet another extinction resting on their shoulders. Now isn't that just dandy.


by: Maeda Atsukoh from: AKB, Tokyo
February 21, 2014 7:08 PM
What is wrong with extinction.
They can not live any more because they can not adopt the evironmental change, even if that change is due to human activities.
Human and human activities are part of ecosystem and extinction is necessary for the ecosystem. Thease scientists understand nothing about science.

In Response

by: Finean Williams from: SC
February 25, 2014 6:44 PM
Your kidding right? The human race has already killed of some 90% of the oceans major predators (due to shark fining) which has resulted in an explosion of overpopulation ion the ocean. Most people's response to this: oh good I'm scared of sharks. Or they simply don't care or like you they believe that in some way this is occurring naturally. Well next time why don't you think about your comments before you post them. Please and thank you.

-FINEAN

In Response

by: Vincent from: Florida, USA
February 22, 2014 6:10 PM
Are you suggesting that the lemurs learn to use guns to combat poachers?
Do research on the affects of careless peoples' actions on the environment and how it negatively effects the ecosystem to better understand this article. For example, I hardly consider it fair for humans to jump into helicopters and shoot down entire packs wolves so the wolves will stop eating their livestock. It saves the livestock but causes overpopulation of all other naturally occurring prey species, which in turn affects the flora; eventually, this cycle circles back to the destruction of humans. Fortunately, (or unfortunately depending on how one looks at the situation) once people realize the mistake, they're able to attempt to mend the loss by reintroducing species and carefully monitor them to bring the population back up.
The best way to further understand the impact the lemur extinction will have on the environment, aside from the: " 'Look, this island was once inhabited by creatures called lemurs, but they have gone extinct because your dad, along with many others, was unable to avert their extinction at the time," Schwitzer said," quote, would be to find out exactly how the lemurs contribute to the ecosystem of Madagascar and how their loss will affect the island.

In Response

by: Johnathan Hargrev from: USA
February 22, 2014 4:57 PM
What is wrong with extinction? Are you serious? Nothing you say can be taken seriously. The Japanese people are responsible for endangering numerous marine wildlife species. Whales, dolphins at the forefront. Your greed, your arrogance, would push them into extinction. It's a good thing that there are people who actually care about animal species, to undo the damage people like you have done.


by: Finean
February 20, 2014 9:40 PM
Where can I make a donation?


by: John from: Colville, Wa
February 20, 2014 9:22 PM
Very sad these things happen and these situations are only on the increase due to human activities. It is said that we are losing nearly 200 species a day and only human arrogance would suppose that humans will one day not be on that list. Only humans, of all species, has the ability to alter the natural cycle of earth and we fail in the most pathetic ways to care for the only place we have to live.

In Response

by: Fair Play from: MO
February 22, 2014 9:10 PM
Human over population is to blame. Lets try to control where we humans live that might help with the endangering wildlife.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid