Madagascar’s lemur species face extinction

Two baby lemurs on their mom's back
Two baby lemurs ride on their mom's, Paris Zoo, June 2020, photo: Reuters/Charles Platiau

Almost all lemur species, the tiny saucer-eyed primates native to Madagascar, face extinction, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned on Thursday.

Of the 107 surviving lemur species on the island, some 103 are threatened, including 33 that are critically endangered — the last stop before “extinct in the wild”, the organization said.

They called for a fundamental reimagining of the way humanity interacts with the natural world, in an update to its Red List of Threatened Species. The list assesses 120,372 species and classifies more than 30,000 species as at risk of disappearing.

The report comes amid growing alarm that the planet may have already entered a period of so-called mass extinction, the sixth in 500 million years.

Grethel Aguilar, the IUCN’s acting director-general, said the updated list showed “Homo sapiens needs to drastically change its relationship to other primates, and to nature as a whole”.  

Lemurs, Madagascar’s treasure, are among the many precious species unique to the Indian Ocean island. But the impoverished country is struggling to combat deforestation, poaching for food and the illegal pet trade. 

Among the lemurs newly listed as critically endangered are the Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur, the smallest primate in the world, and the Verreaux’s Sifaka, part of the leaping lemur family. Both have seen “substantial declines” because their habitats have been destroyed by slash-and-burn agriculture and logging. 

“If you destroy or drastically modify their forest habitats, they cannot survive,” said Russ Mittermeier, member of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission Primate  Specialist Group. 

More than 40 percent of Madagascar’s original forest cover was lost between the 1950s and 2000.

Less than 250 North Atlantic Right Whales left
Among the other animals added to the IUCN’s critically endangered list was the North Atlantic Right Whale, estimating that there were fewer than 250 adults at the end of 2018 — some 15 percent lower than 2011. 

Climate change appeared to be pushing the whales further north during summer into the Gulf of St Lawrence off Canada, where they are more likely to be struck by boats or become entangled in crab pot ropes. 

The European Hamster is also on to the critically endangered list. Their reproductive rates have dropped. While a female hamster had an average of over 20 offspring a year during the last century, today they give birth to only five or six.

Last year, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warned that up to one million species faced extinction due to humanity’s insatiable desire for land and materials. 

Source: AFP

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