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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

'Exceptionally Lucky' US Boy Survives Flight in Wheel Well

The boy was unconscious for most of the flight, and appeared to be unharmed after enduring the extremely cold temperatures and lack of oxygen More

US Anti-Corruption Law Snags Major Tech Company

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in December, 1977 More

Cameron Criticized for Calling UK 'Christian Country'

Letter from scientists, academics and writers says the prime minister is fostering division by repeatedly referring to England as a 'Christian country' 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid