Lemurs are endemic (occur naturally ) only in Madagascar. The island is home to over 70 different kinds of lemurs which are found nowhere else in the world. This makes Madagascar the highest priority for the conservation of primates. Approximately 90% of Madagascar’s other mammals, its reptiles, amphibians and its plants are also endemic- found only in Madagascar. Sadly, this remarkable diversity of animal and plant life is in critical danger. In fact, Madagascar is one of the world’s most endangered biodiversity hotspots.
Man arrived on Madagascar only around 2,000 years ago, and today only about 10% of the original vegetation remains. Human pressures continue to threaten the island’s many unique ecosystems- the rainforests, the dry forests, the spiny desert, fresh water wetlands and the marine ecosystem. The human impact is compounded by the desperate poverty of Madagascar’s 20 million inhabitants, many of whom rely on slash-and-burn agriculture, unsustainable forest product use and hunting for their very survival. All of these practices destroy animal habitats or the animals themselves. Solutions for these two critical problems in Madagascar- threats to biodiversity and human poverty- must be considered together if they are to succeed.
The Duke Lemur Center (DLC) has had an active conservation program for 20 years, both at the DLC and in Madagascar. The DLC is a founding and managing member of the Madagascar Fauna Group (MFG) which is a consortium of zoos and other institutions interested in supporting conservation in Madagascar. Through the MFG, Duke Lemur Center has projects in Madagascar. These include Betampona Natural Reserve, and Parc Ivoloina. Parc Ivoloina, is a regional environmental education and training center on Madagascar’s east coast. The Parc has a small zoo and also includes active components of environmental education, teaching of sustainable agriculture, reforestation, and training/capacity building.
Also with the MFG, the DLC carried out the first re-introduction of captive lemurs back to the wild at Betampona Reserve. This project has evolved into an important program of conservation research, as well as other conservation components carried out at Ivoloina. Thanks in part to DLC support, MFG presence and work within Betampona help to protect the Reserve from illegal wood cutting and poaching of wildlife.
The Duke Lemur Center also has a training or capacity building program. Malagasy students, professors, conservation professionals, and veterinarians have been brought to Duke on a regular basis to study, do research, and receive training.
At the DLC, scientific research and captive breeding programs support conservation efforts, increasing our knowledge about lemur biology, reproduction, social behavior, veterinary medicine, diets and breeding management. The DLC is also a major resource for undergraduate and graduate student education. Many students do field research in Madagascar and often go on to work as primatologists or as conservation professionals.
Starting in 2012 DLC has begun yet another conservation initiative in the SAVA region of northeastern Madagascar, transferring the same conservation components implemented by the MFG to a different and biologically important region of Madagascar.
Click here to read the latest IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group (PSG) and International Primatological Society (IPS) report, Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2012–2014.
Click here to listen to a collection of songs from the heart from Razia Said. They were written to raise awareness about the urgent problem of climate change in Madagascar. Welcome to Zebu.
Click here to read what is going on at the Duke Lemur Center Vegetable Garden.