Sad Lemur

Madagascar is still one of the world poorest countries, and is hugely dependent on rice. In the past century, the island has lost 90% its forest to slash-and-burn agriculture or tavy. The once thickly covered central highland are now a wasteland, scarred by soil erosion. Sitled-up riverbeds are planted with rice, and cleared and terraced land is fertile enough to support just two rice crops. After the second harvest, it has to be left to pasture and burned annually to encourage the new grass shoots most palatable to cattle. Every year, one-third of Madagascar’s land mass is set alight. And the fires spread to those pockets of forest that have not already been cleared.

As the forests have shrunk and fragmented the lemur population has been further towards extinction. The impact of the forest clearance has been compounded by hunting. Local taboos protect some lemurs, notably the white sifaka, which is believed by Sakalava people to be an ancestor spirit, and the Indri, which the Betsimisaraka say once raised an orphan boy as their own. But other taboos are less forgiving . The devilish-looking aye-aye is condamned to death on sight. It is said to creep up on sleeping people , insert its long, ball-and-socket-joined middle finger into an ear and pull out their brains, in fact it does nothing more sinister with this remarkable digit than pluck insect larvae out of trees. It’s now highly endangered, only its wide distribution and nocturnal nature have kept it from disappearing altogether.

At least 16 spaces have disappeared in the 2,000. For years, the country’s long unhappy experiment with communism kept deforestation and destruction to continue unabated. In the last decade, however, and particularly in the three years, since for Mr President RAVALOMANANA Marc took his office, that has changed. Though still grave, the environmental situation is beginning to look up. Madagascar, says mittervation priority, with an influx of NGOs and funding. At the world parks congress in South Africa in 2003, RAVALOMANANA pledged to triple the size of the island’s nature reserves.

All agree that the only way the lemur will survive in the long term is if the local people become committed to its conservation. The Alaotran gentle lemur, or Bandro, is a case in point. The Bandro live among the papyrus and reed beds surrounding Madagascar’s largest lake, Alaotra. To gain better access to the fish of the lake, the local people is cutting the reed beds, flushing out and killing lemurs as they want. The population of the Bandro went into free full. By 2001 there were just 3,000 left in the wild. The lake began to still up and its fish began to die. Then the wildlife programme here in Madagascar like Durell Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Madagascar programme began to take a responsibilities and try to explain the importance of the environment health. At the same time they introduced fuel-efficient stoves and began to teach more intensive method of rice cultivation. It was explained that the Bandro was unique and, crucially, of more value as a draw to tourists and primatologist than as a source of food.

Around 70% and more tourists came to Madagascar were going to visit a protected areas. It’s very needed to spend much more money for conservation, protected areas. If we could replaced tavy with tourism, the lemurs would have nothing to worry about, but it’s up to the Malagasy. Now the number of young Malagasy scientists and conservationists is growing and the people are becoming aware that the lemurs conservation is a duty of all Malagasy citizens.

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