Destinations Magazine

Why Now is the Time to See Lemurs in Madagascar

By Monkeys And Mountains Adventure @Laurel_Robbins

When is the best time to see lemurs in Madagascar?

NOW. Your visit can play a critical role in lemur conservation.

When you think of a lemur, you probably think of a ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta). Sadly, their population has decreased by 95% since 2000. There are now only an estimated 2000 - 2400 animals left. Source: Folio Primatologia.

The now-empty forests are "very sad, quiet and dusty," says Marni LaFleur, a lemur researcher, and director of Lemur Love, a non-profit, dedicated to lemur science, conservation, and education. Monkeys and Mountains has been fortunate enough to partner with them for our upcoming Madagascar tour. More on that later.

The main reasons for the decline are due to habitat destruction, forest fragmentation, hunting for subsistence or the illegal bushmeat trade, and live capture for the illegal pet trade. Source: Primate Conservation.

While ring-tailed lemurs may be the flagship species, there are over 100 lemur species. They all fall under the protection of CITES. Sadly, 90% of all lemur species are threatened according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

While it's technically illegal to hunt, capture, or keep lemurs as pets, there's often a lack of enforcement. You can even eat endangered lemurs in some restaurants according to this article in Mongabay.

Besides being hunted for their meat, approximately 28,000 lemurs are kept as pets. It's illegal but enforcement is an issue. Source: Earth Touch News Network.

Lemurs are the world's oldest living primates. They can be traced back 70 million years ago. They also provide an essential link to our past. It's thought the presence of man contributed to the extinction of giant lemurs.

Lemurs that were as big as gorillas! Check out this video of Aven Cave in Tsimanampetsotse National Park where they found a graveyard of giant lemurs.

Feeling thoroughly depressed yet? There is good news. You can play a critical role in lemur conservation by travelling to Madagascar.

According to the Lemur Conservation Network:

Many conservationists agree that ecotourism is the number one thing that can ensure the survival of lemurs in Madagascar. The local Malagasy people need to see that lemurs are more valuable alive than dead. Tourists will come to see lemurs in the wild. Officials say tourism is now a real priority for Madagascar's new government, which has drastically increased funding to promote the island as an ecotourism destination that can attract up to two million annual visitors by 2020. This would mean millions of dollars for Madagascar's economy.

Ecotourism has played an important role in saving Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda. Can the same be done for lemurs?

Over the past 35 years, the mountain gorilla population has almost doubled to approximately 880 individuals. That's still really low, and gorillas are still critically endangered. However, it's still a significant improvement.

Official estimates suggest that 85% of the tourism industry (in Rwanda) is gorilla-centric according to an article in Discover Magazine.

Furthermore, Last Tuesday, for example, all 91 of Volcanoes National Park's allotted gorilla tracking permits were sold, for $750 each, bringing in a cool $68,250. In one day....

Ever since a 2005 revenue-sharing initiative started feeding 5% of national park revenue back into adjacent villages, more than $1.8 million has bolstered hundreds of community development projects, from road construction to small business loans.

In other words, when Rwandans benefited from ecotourism, so did gorillas.

We need to show the Malagasy (the local people of Madagascar) that lemurs are worth more alive than dead.

According to the World Bank, Madagascar is one of the poorest countries on the planet. 70% of the population is considered poor.

You can appreciate that if your stomach is growling or if your child is looking up at you wide-eyed with hunger, finding food is going to be a much bigger priority than saving lemurs.

According to Our Africa, only 200,000 people visit Madagascar a year. To put that in perspective, Venice - just one city, receives 20 million tourists.

Florida alone attracts 100, million tourists a year. Imagine, the positive economic development that ecotourism could have on Madagascar.

When I decided to create a tour to Madagascar, it was because of a desire to help make a positive impact to lemur conservation. Something that I believe ecotourism, when managed properly can do.

There are many other much more famous destinations where it made better business to focus. But after my visit to Madagascar and the privilege of observing lemurs in the wild, I felt compelled to do something.

It's the first tour that I'll be accompanying, I've chosen to do so based on the reasons above.

The highlights of the tour include:

  • Observe endangered lemurs in the wild and get new dance moves from watching dancing sifakas.
  • Listen for the eerie calls of the Indri. You've never heard anything like this!
  • Hike in three of Madagascar's most beautiful national parks.
  • Meet and hang out with Dr. Tara Clarke, Visiting Assistant Professor, Duke University and Director of Outreach, Lemur Love, Inc. and Dr. Marni LaFleur, Adjunct Professor, UCSD, and Founder and Director, Lemur Love, Inc. They'll chat about their work and conservation projects followed by a Q &A session.
  • Participate in a community-based conservation education outreach activity with local Malagasy children.
  • Create lemur enrichment at ONG Reniala Lemur Rescue Center (LRC). we will be creating lemur enrichment. Enrichment is an important/essential part of captive care- it provides stimulation and allows for new/novel items and exploration to prevent boredom and stress from captive conditions.
  • Support lemur conservation. $500 of your fee goes to Lemur Love, a US-based non-profit (501(c)(3)). Thus all donations are tax-deductible for US citizens.
  • Search for mouse lemurs and other nocturnal critters on night walks.
  • Observe other wildlife, such as birds, colourful chameleons, frogs and if you're fortunate, maybe even a Fossa.

This wildlife of Madagascar tour is custom-designed to give you direct access to the world's leading lemur researchers. You'll learn from them while supporting the incredible work they do.

You'll also have a direct impact on the local community. Our guide and driver are Malagasy, as are the numerous guides that we'll have in the national parks. This provides local employment. It gives Malagasy an incentive to focus on lemur conservation.

Not only that, but you'll be interacting with local Malagasy children in a community-based education project. It's so important to get the locals involved. Lemur Love is doing fantastic work, and you'll get to be a part of it.

It's easy to get depressed and think that lemurs are doomed. And what could you possibly do from thousands of miles away? Travel to Madagascar as an ecotourist. You'll be helping to create a positive future for lemurs. The time to do it is now - before it's too late.

Help spread the message about lemurs by sharing one of these photos:

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