RING-TAILED LEMUR Species Survival Plan
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Madagascar landscape
Farm in Madagascar.Photo Sam Zeveloff ©Copyright 2009

Conservation Issues:

The future survival of ring-tailed lemurs (lemur catta) is uncertain.  The IUCN Red List Assessment has ring-tailed lemurs classified as “vulnerable”.  With less than 10% of the original forests remaining in Madagascar, habitat destruction is the number one factor that threatens the extinction of all lemur species.  Despite crippling poverty, Malagasy human populations are increasing, making habitat loss even more significant. 

The most destructive farming technique in Madagascar is “slash and burn agriculture” also called tavy.  This technique involves cutting down the forests and then burning the trees.  The ash is used to add nutrients into the soil, enabling the cultivation of rice (a staple food).  Unfortunately, the nutrients are quickly depleted from the soil, forcing the farmer to move onto yet another plot of land, and therefore destroying even more primary forest.  Forest destruction also leads to erosion which flushes useless soil into neighboring rivers and lakes and further compromises the ability of the Malagasy to farm. 

rice farming
Rice farming in Madagascar ©Copyright 2009 wildmadagascar.org

Another method of habitat destruction is selective logging.  Certain trees are desired most for making furniture and other wood products.  Although logging is illegal in protected areas, it is difficult to always enforce and is still a problem.  The production of charcoal from trees contributes as well to the habitat loss, as does forest leveling due to long term mining projects. 

soil erosion'
Soil erosion in Madagascar ©Copyright 2009 wildmadagascar.org

While the lemurs living amongst the destruction are obviously gone, the lemurs that live in forests adjacent to the desolation are not safe either.  As forests continue to become fragmented, quality of habitat is becoming more of a problem.  With a shattered ecosystem, forests are more susceptible to invasive plant and animal species. 

In Berenty Reserve, ring-tailed lemurs have been observed to feed on Leucaena leucocephala which is an introduced plant species that causes alopecia in the lemurs.  Close proximity of human populations and domestic animals to lemur populations introduces new diseases and changes lemur behavior. 

Malagasy cattle in drought conditions
Cattle in dry season Photo LCF ©Copyright 2009

The smaller, more fragmented lemur populations are also more at risk during natural disasters.  Living in dry forests, ring-tailed lemurs are particularly vulnerable to drought.  With weakened immune systems and weakened social networks it is harder to bounce back after natural disasters. 

Ring-tailed lemurs are also hunted for food and confiscated for the pet trade.  As lemur populations become more fragmented through habitat destruction, hunting becomes more damaging.  Lemurs imprisoned in the pet trade are often fed unhealthy diets, abused, chained to trees, and can become aggressive with the owners once reaching sexual maturity.  While this is obviously a problem for their individual welfare, lemurs taken from the wild can no longer genetically and socially contribute to an already threatened population. 

lemur catta in tree

Lemur catta in tree
   Photo LCF

©Copyright  2009 





 
lemur catta in Madagascar forest

Lemur catta in
   Madagascar forest.

Photo Sam Zeveloff
   ©Copyright 2009



lemur catta on the ground

Madagascar
   Photo LCF

©copyright 2009



lemur in tree in Madagascar

Madagascar
   Photo LCF

©copyright 2009



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