Thursday, 25 June 2015

Madagascar's lemurs cling to survival

Science editor

David Shukman goes in search of lemurs in their natural habitat

The famous lemurs of Madagascar face such severe threats to their survival that none of them may be left in the wild within 25 years.

That stark warning comes from one of the world's leading specialists in the iconic animals.

Deforestation and hunting are taking an increasing toll, according to Professor Jonah Ratsimbazafy, director of GERP, a centre for primate research in Madagascar.

"My heart is broken," he told the BBC, "because the situation is getting worse as more forests disappear every year. That means the lemurs are in more and more trouble."

So far 106 species of lemur have been identified and nearly all of them are judged to be at risk of extinction, many of them critically endangered.

The habitats they depend on - mostly a variety of different kinds of forest - only exist in Madagascar.

"Just as fish cannot survive without water, lemurs cannot survive without forest, but less than 10% of the original Madagascar forest is left," said Prof Ratsimbazafy, who is also a co-vice chair of the Madagascar primates section of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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