When people think of lemurs they usually think of Ring-Tailed Lemurs. They can be found all around the world in zoological institutions and they can be seen in various movies. Due to their popularity, people assume they are safe from extinction. However, two studies have been published recently that suggest the iconic Ring-Tailed Lemur could be headed for extinction and soon. Both studies, one in Primate Conservation and one in Folia Primatologica, project that there are only 2,000-2,400 lemurs left in Madagascar. This would be a 95% decline from the last population census is 2000. Ring-Tailed Lemurs are commonly stolen from the wild for the illegal pet trade, hunted for their meat and victims to deforestation.
It was long thought that because they are so adaptable, being able to survive in different climates and terrains, that they would adapt to the current situation in Madagascar. It turns out that forest fragmentation is a big problem for Ring-Tailed Lemurs. Currently, the populations are being forced into small fragmented patches which means that males cannot freely or safely move to different populations like they would naturally do. There is currently no regulation in Madagascar for lemurs being taken from the wild to enter the illegal pet trade. Even here many states do not regulate Ring-Tailed Lemurs being kept as pets. As with any growing country, the Malagasy people need to feed themselves. A lot of the forests are being burned down to make way for agriculture or illegally cut down for the logging industry. These fires can easily spread to the protected forests.
Scientists stress that the situation for the Ring-Tailed Lemurs in Madagascar is urgent and are calling for a complete census of all the remaining lemurs. They are also calling for more cooperation between zoos and field-level conservation efforts. Zoos and similar intuitions are integral in teaching the public about lemurs and hopefully inspiring them to help.
There are ways YOU can help! Support local institutions (like the museum!) who have Ring-Tailed lemurs by coming to learn about them. Support organizations that donate or participate in lemur conservation like The Lemur Conservation Foundation or Lemur Love. Spread the news on social media to get the word out about Ring-Tailed Lemurs and their plight. Before buying furniture or wooden musical instruments make sure they haven’t been made with illegally sourced rosewood. Our lemurs at the museum, will always be safe and well cared for but the same cannot be said for their wild counterparts if we don’t take action now.