It is hard not to fall in love with a lemur. How can you not love them when one is crawling up your pant leg looking at you with those big, round eyes.
You may have seen them before at a zoo, but if you get a chance visit the lemur exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo. They have one of the best exhibits in the world with seven species of these amazing primates, all sharing the same space. Or on the other side of the U.S., you can visit The Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC which houses 15 species of lemur, the largest group of lemurs outside Madagascar.
So what exactly is a lemur? Well, they are neither apes nor monkeys but are a class of prosimian primates. Prosimians have long snouts and moist noses with keen senses of smell as compared to apes and monkeys. Their large eyes are adapted for night vision since they are nocturnal animals mostly living in trees.
Where Do They Live?
Where are the only places lemurs live in the wild? The largest is Madagascar which is just off the southeast coast of Africa. All 113 species of lemur live on this one island and they are in serious trouble. But there is also a small nation just to the west of Madagascar called Comoros where several species of lemur live. Unfortunately, its forests are also severely compromised.
95% Of All Lemur Species Could Become Extinct
According to the ICUN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), lemurs are the most endangered primate group on the planet with 95% threatened with becoming extinct. Wow, that is terrible. Why you might ask, would anyone want to hurt these wonderful animals?
Destruction of their forest habitat and poaching for bushmeat and the pet trade are the main factors negatively impacting them. While Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and the largest producer of vanilla globally, they are one of the poorest countries in existence.
Over 75% of the population live on less than $1.90 a day. Resources are scarce and forests are being destroyed to grow crops and use for firewood. As a result of deforestation and climate change, less than 10% of the original forest remains. It is pretty hard for lemurs to survive when they are being hunted and have nowhere to live!
So what can be done to save the lemur? Ecotourism and reforestation are ongoing solutions but it remains a very complicated situation. To learn more, read the blog “Madagascar is Burning: Meet the Conservation Heroes Working to Bring the Forests Back” from the Lemur Conservation Group.
And what animal happens to be the largest pollinator in the world? The black-and-white-ruffed lemur which pollinates the flowers on the traveler’s palm.
Unlike many animal groups where the male is the most dominant, the female lemurs hold the dominant spots. They usually give birth to one pup a year, sometimes two. With all the different species, there is so much to learn.
How Can You Help?
Donate your time or money to a conservation zoo that raises lemurs. There are many zoos/conservation centers throughout the US and the world. Ones we support include the NC Zoo and the San Fransisco Zoo.
Learn all you can about the different species and share your knowledge through social media and with friends. Also, learn about the challenges Madagascar faces by visiting WildMadagascar.org. They have a number of resources listed which will help you better understand the issues surrounding the Island.
You can symbolically adopt a lemur at The Duke Lemur Center which helps fund their conservation programs in Madagascar and also helps care for the lemurs at their facility.