More than 90 percent of the world’s lemur species may be extinct in the next 20 years, according to a new assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The 94 species may be saved with a $7.6 million plan, the organization says. Deforestation caused by logging, mining and slash-and-burn farming in the primates’ native land of Madagascar has led to the destruction of their habitat and threat of extinction, the Telegraph reports.
“If continued at this rate of deforestation, we can say that within 20 to 25 years there will be no more forest and thus no more lemurs,” Jonah Ratsimbazafy, a well-known local primatologist, told the Agence France-Presse.
The country’s political and social crises combined with decades of deforestation have destroyed 90 percent of Madagascar’s forests. Around 500,000 acres are destroyed each year with only around 19,000 square miles remain.
Leading primate experts have developed a three-year strategy aimed at funding more than $7 million worth of conservation efforts in the area.
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“There are three things we know work when it comes to tackling conservation in the field, which are cheap and simple to implement in different areas,” Dr. Russ Mittermeier, President of Conservation International said in a statement. “First working on grassroots projects with local communities so people can make a difference for themselves, secondly supporting eco-tourism projects and thirdly establishing research stations as a permanent facility to protect against loggers and hunters.”
Some activities include training local farmers to plant bears or to rear pigs and chickens. Growing a fish farming industry may also prevent further deforestation, Benjamin Andriamihaja of the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments said. “But it’s very difficult to meet their needs in the long term,” he told AFP.
Dr. Christoph Schwitzer, Head of Research at Bristol Zoo Gardens agrees. “The fact is that if we don’t act now we risk losing a species of lemur for the first time in two centuries. The importance of the projects we’ve outlined in this document simply cannot be overstated.”