How Lessons from Past Extinctions Can Help Save Madagascar’s Lemurs

How Lessons from Past Extinctions Can Help Save Madagascar’s Lemurs

 

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Much of the human population is aware that our world is facing a dangerous threat to wildlife diversity and species extinction all across the globe. Climate change can be blamed for much of this. From over-exploitation to loss of natural habitat, the risk of wildlife extinctions is not a matter to take lightly. Extinctions have been a phenomenon in existence all throughout Earth’s history and it’s vital not to trivialize these previous adverse events. Doing so will help to inhibit mistakes in the future. Fortunately, scientists are actively taking charge in how to do just that.

Take Madagascar, for example, an island just off the southeast coast of mainland Africa. The lemur is a species endemic to this country and holds much symbolic and environmental importance in the area, two of the main reasons why this animal is near the top of conservation efforts. Lemurs are considered to be one of the world’s most threatened animals, with more than 90 out of 100 species currently facing extinction. For about 60 years and continuing to this day, much of Madagascar’s rich, tropical rain forest has been transformed into industrialized areas for human development.

Between 500 and 2,000 years ago, there was a massive extinction of over 17 species of lemurs. As expected, scientists have found that human impact was a major cause of this. There is a rather obvious parallel that should be noted here. If human involvement in the environment caused extinctions in the past, a continuation of this pattern can just as easily transpire once again.

Lemurs play a particularly unique role in their community. When lemurs eat the fruit of certain trees, they have the ability to swallow the seeds and eventually excrete them in new growing areas. In effect, this allows new populations to develop, helping to continue new and diverse generations of plants to multiply. While most tropical rain forests in the world have many different varieties of fruit-eating birds, Madagascar does not. This proves to show just how vital the lemur’s role is in continuing the enhancement and growth of biodiversity in Madagascar’s forest communities.

The World Wildlife Fund and Madagascar Flora & Fauna Group are a couple of the conservation organizations and reserves that are already taking a more comprehensive approach on this pertinent issue. Without impressive conservation efforts, there’s no way of telling what the future of the lemur might be.

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Written by: Hana Goldstein

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