Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot for plant and animal life, the only home for lemurs, and one of the most heavily impacted by habitat loss. Some experts estimate that 90% of original natural vegetation has already been destroyed.
Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries and largely unable to invest in the most valuable natural resources. Over 100 species of lemur live in Madagascar and nowhere else. Lemurs represent a scientific and cultural asset with critical habitats. Only about ten percent of Madagascar’s land area remains suitable for lemurs. This land is inadequately protected or not protected at all.
More than 90% of lemur species are endangered and might face extinction in the nearest future.
Highly efficient lemur conservation and research initiatives arise from scientists and local community volunteers. However, due to insufficient funds, most fail before they even see the light of day. A majority of these initiatives require $5,000+ to go live.
Protected areas are critical to the future of lemurs. Although the Durban process has saved some lemurs and their habitats, implementation is difficult. In recent years, Madagascar has experienced a breakdown of government controls, invasion of Masoala and Marojejy National Parks, illegal cutting of valuable timber species, slash-and-burn agriculture, and, perhaps worst of all, hunting of lemurs.
Exacerbating the problem is suspension of environmental programs. USAID, for example, put on hold a comprehensive 25-year environmental program (although it continued humanitarian assistance). Several European governments acted similarly. Norway ceased bilateral aid in 2009, as did the European Union.
What Can Be Done
- Establish captive colonies of lemurs to insure that lemur populations remain stable
- Maintain a long-term research presence and create new research projects
- Develop and promote ecotourism
- Work closely with local communities, provide training and support