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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
20-Feb-2014

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Contact: Jeff Renaud
jrenaud9@uwo.ca
519-520-7281
University of Western Ontario

Western University primatologist teams with international group to save lemurs

Lemurs, the most endangered mammal group on Earth, represent more than 20 per cent of the world's primates. Native only to Madagascar, more than 90 percent of the species are threatened with extinction.

A Western University primatologist has teamed with 18 lemur conservationists and researchers, many of whom are from Madagascar or have been working there for decades, to devise an action plan to save Madagascar's 101 lemur species. The action plan contains strategies for 30 different priority sites for lemur conservation and aims to help raise funds for individual projects.

Ian Colquhoun from Western's Faculty of Social Science co-authored a 'Policy Forum' commentary titled "Averting Lemur Extinctions amid Madagascar's Political Crisis" for the high-impact journal, Science, with many of the top primatologists in the world, including Christoph Schwitzer, head of research at Bristol Zoo Gardens and vice-chair for Madagascar of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) SSC Primate Specialist Group, and Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International and Chair of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group.

Vital steps outlined by the collaborators include effective management of Madagascar's protected areas, the creation of more reserves directly managed by local communities, and a long-term research presence in critical lemur sites.

"Through seed dispersal and attracting income through ecotourism, lemurs have important ecological and economic roles for Madagascar," says Colquhoun, a professor in Western's Department of Anthropology and Chair of the Master's in Environment and Sustainability Program in Western's Centre for Environment & Sustainability. "I think there is huge potential for Malagasy all over the island to take pride in their lemurs."

Native to the shrinking and fragmented tropical and subtropical forests of Madagascar, off Africa's Indian Ocean coast, lemurs are facing grave extinction risks driven by human disturbance of their habitats. Combined with increasing rates of poaching and the loss of funding for environmental programs by most international donors in the wake of the political crisis in Madagascar, challenges to lemur conservation are immense.

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