The International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission held a conference in Madagascar this week to discuss the fate of the world’s 103 lemur species and came to the shocking conclusion that they are the most endangered mammals on earth.
“Madagascar has, by far, the highest proportion of threatened species of any primate habitat region or any one country in the world. As a result, we now believe that lemurs are probably the most endangered of any group of vertebrates,” said primatologist Christoph Schwitzer, head of research at Bristol Zoo Gardens in the United Kingdom and the IUCN advisor on Madagascar’s primates.
More than 90 percent of the world’s lemur species have been upgraded to critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species list, which scientists are attributing to changes in the landscape since the last assessment was done in 2005. The northern sportive lemur may be rarest of all, with just 18 known individuals left.
Political instability in the area has led to an increase in poverty and driven illegal logging and hunting for the bush meat trade, which is destroying the tropical forest habitat in Madagascar, the only place in the world lemurs are found in the wild. Scientists also believe that the decline in their numbers will negatively affect tourism, further exacerbating poverty in the area and causing more problems that could lead to their disappearance.
Scientists will continue to work on a plan and expect there to be 30 to 40 projects to address this issue over the next three years with a budget of $5 to $10 million, Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International, told CNN. However, he notes that it’s not much to save an entire forest and population.
A bit of good news at the conference came in the form of an announcement about the discovery of a new species of mouse lemur found in eastern Madagascar by Peter Kappeler and a team from the German Primate Center.
Photo credit: Thinkstock