Thursday, 2 July 2015

Will animals of the future only be safe in captivity?

Science editor

28 June 2015 
From the section

David Shukman goes in search of lemurs in their natural habitat

Look ahead towards the middle of the century and much-loved animals such as lemurs, rhinos and tigers will only survive in some form of captivity.

And extinction will be even more of a threat than it is now.

An overly bleak and pessimistic view? Maybe.

But after reporting on the state of wildlife in Madagascar this past week, I cannot see how many of the most iconic creatures will be able to roam in their natural habitats for much longer.

I don't mean a future necessarily confined to zoos, but one in which lives are led in special zones guarded by fences and patrols and CCTV. Free, but only up to a point.

The reasons are obvious: growing populations and the thirst for resources and the black market for animals all mean that humans and animals are increasingly competing for territory and survival. And the animals usually lose.

As we picked our way through the remaining pockets of forest in Madagascar, I heard that less than 10% of the original cover is left.

And those remaining stretches of jungle - the sole habitats for the country's famous lemurs - are under constant attack as local people seek to create farmland or hunt for fresh meat.

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