Written by a team including CI President Russell A. Mittermeier and Malagasy primatologists Jonah Ratsimbazafy and Rodin Rasoloarison, the book updates a first edition published in 1994 with subsequent research and genetic studies on lemurs that identified 10 new species and reclassified nine others as separate species.
The guide is useful for the scientific community, students at both the high school and university level, and tourists interested in Madagascar. Filled with detailed information, photos and illustrations, the handbook is easy to carry and use, helping readers identify the 71 species of lemurs that live on the island.
"Lemurs are Madagascar's ambassadors to the world and a reason why tourists are attracted to this unique island nation, which is one of the planet's richest hotspots of biodiversity," Mittermeier said. "As Madagascar's unique and beautiful habitat is destroyed, these remarkable animals are becoming more and more endangered. This is another critical reason to protect the parks, reserves and natural habitat of these species."
Lemurs are specialized species of primates only found on the island of Madagascar, which was separated from the African continent 160 million years ago. According to the IUCN--World Conservation Union, more than a third of lemur species are Endangered or Critically Endangered.
A major threat to lemurs is deforestation due to logging and industrial development as well as bush fires to clear land for agriculture, while hunting is an increasing menace.
"Already 16 species of lemurs have disappeared from Madagascar, and if habitat destruction continues, many other species will be lost forever," said Frank Hawkins, CI's technical director in the country and a co-author of the book.
Other co-authors are William R. Konstant; Edward E. Louis; Olivier Langrand; Jorg U. Ganzhorn; Serge Rajaobelina; Ian Tattersall, and David M. Meyers. Illustrations are by Stephen D. Nash.
The new lemur guide comes out as the government of Madagascar is taking significant steps to protect their habitat. It recently announced the protection of an additional 1 million hectares (2.47 million acres) of forest that includes crucial home territory of threatened species such as the Indri and Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur.
A new section of the guide offers readers a lemur-sighting list, similar to how bird-watchers record their sightings, in an effort to launch a primate-watching industry.
Mittermeier said promoting primate-watching would provide enthusiasts with a structured way to enjoy their hobby and also increase ecotourism in areas where primates live, such as tropical forests.
"Communities living near primate habitat need to benefit economically as an incentive to protect the primate populations," he said. "Getting tourists to these places to see the primates will bring the needed economic benefits, so we hope to be pioneers for a growing list of primate watchers around the world."
Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth's richest regions of plant and animal diversity and demonstrate that human societies can live harmoniously with nature. Founded in 1987, CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents to help people find economic alternatives without harming their natural environments. For more information about CI, visit www.conservation.org.