Sunday, 15 June 2014

More than 90% of lemurs face extinction, IUCN warns

Updated 'red list' describes the primates as one of the most threatened groups of animals on Earth 

The Guardian, Thursday 12 June 2014

More than 90% of lemurs are facing extinction, according to the latest global assessment of the world’s most threatened species.

The update to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) “red list”, which contains more than 73,000 species around the world, also warned that temperate slipper orchids and the Japanese eel have joined the list of the 22,103 species now classed by experts as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable to extinction.

With 90 species of lemur now classed as being at risk of extinction (91%), the primates are one of the most threatened groups of animals on Earth. Of the 99 known species – which live only on the island of Madagascar off the coast of east Africa – 22 are critically endangered, including the largest living lemur, the large-bodied Indri (Indri indri). Almost half (48 species) are endangered, including the world’s smallest primate, Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur (Microcebus berthae). Twenty lemurs were listed as vulnerable to extinction.

Lemurs are threatened by the destruction of their tropical forest habitat in Madagascar, where political instability and rising levels of poverty in the past 20 years have accelerated illegal logging. As much as 90% of the original natural vegetation on the island has been destroyed and what remains is severely fragmented. Lemurs – members of the primate family – are also being hunted for food.

Dr Thomas Lacher, of Texas A&M University, said: “The high level of threat among lemurs is particularly troubling and calls for significant conservation action. These distinctive primates serve a critical role in the threatened ecosystems of Madagascar. They also represent an important source of tourism revenue for the country, and as a result are a clear case where conservation can provide local economic benefits.”

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