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Political unrest leads to peril for Madagascar's lemurs

Madagascar's lemurs are facing a crisis, the result of a perfect storm of factors that have left them perilously close to extinction. Our colleague Robyn Dixon reports on the damage that's been done, and what one Madagascan scientist-turned-spy is doing to try to repair it; here's an excerpt:

Lemur There are dozens of lemur species in Madagascar, 99 at last count, some of them not much bigger than a mouse, most of them critically endangered. The largest lemurs are most vulnerable, because they need more food.

Environmentalists predict that Madagascar will be the next Haiti, a country suffering catastrophic deforestation and environmental degradation because of poor governance.

The lemurs face multiple threats.

In some parts of the country they're considered bad luck, which means that villagers kill them on sight. In other parts, where they're not taboo, they're hunted for food.

Climate change and deforestation are leaving the landscape parched and are destroying habitats.

Logging mafias, alleged to have close links to the government and to Chinese traders, bribe or threaten overstretched, poorly paid park rangers and take precious timber, with devastating results.

The current government was installed in March by the military, which toppled President Marc Ravalomanana and replaced him with his rival, Andry Rajoelina, then the mayor of the capital, Antananarivo. Negotiations on a power-sharing compromise have stalled.

The U.S., the European Union and the World Bank responded to the coup by imposing sanctions, including suspension of USAID's environmental programs. USAID, the U.S. State Department's development agency, had been supporting the Ministry of the Environment, Water, Forests and Tourism, helping the country protect its forests and fauna.


Photo: A sifaka in Madagascar's Berenty Reserve.  Credit: Graeme Williams / Unicef/WFP

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The political crise threatens lemurs... And what about the people? There was a coup over there, 200 people died, some of them because the army shot into the crowd... and all you talk about are animals, as if they were more important than the local populations...

Hi Adrien, you're very right to point out that the political landscape in Madagascar poses a threat to the country's human population in addition to its animal population. We meant in no way to discount the threat to Madagascar's people or imply that animals are "more important than the local poplations," but since this is a blog about animals, we think it's appropriate to focus on the lemurs here.

You can read more about the people of Madagascar in The Times' World section here:


Thanks for your comment!

Truly tragic

Adrien, one group that will never be critically endangered are people, unless it's done through our own actions. Unfortunately as human populations grow the only types of animals that grow are the ones we farm and eat (e.g. pigs, cows, chickens) or ones that survive off of us (e.g. cats, dogs, pigeons, cockroaches, etc.). It's sad to see people in this position, but I believe it's even worse to see beautiful animals whom in 5-10 years will only exist in books and zoos.

The people have the ability to protect themselves or can develop it. The animals are at the mercy of the greedy people who rape the forests with no regard to the Lemur's welfare.

When are we humans going to learn our lessons?

We need to start salvaging old wood and remaking it into something different. Leave the forests of the world alone. If enough people say so, it can be stopped.

My my......


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