It has been reported that the planet is in the throws of the ‘sixth mass extinction’ but whilst humans can influence it, can we stop mass extinction.
Human behaviour is said to be accelerating the decline of species buy a massive multiple. Everything from chopping down rain forest to polluting our oceans and rivers. Amongst the most vulnerable are the primates – especially if they live in poor countries where they are hunted for food.
A recent trip to Madagascar, it was bought home to a leading journalist how the famous lemurs of the island are on the verge of extinction. He saw a baby lemur crawling over the body of its dead mother moments after she had been shot by poachers. Hunting is taking a significant toll as the forest is also cleared to make way for farming.
There have been some brave efforts at conservation. Some key habitats for lemurs have been ring fenced by the local Madagascar goverment. International charities are helping local people work as guides rather than hunters – and it is widely accepted that without the support of local communities the animals have no chance.
Activity and the presence scientists
Scientists have two key roles to play. One is to map and understand where the lemurs live. Despite years of study – and high profile movies – there is still a lot to learn about the diet, breeding habits and social structure of lemurs. Gathering these facts could influence goverment policy.
Science is important in another key way too. Simply having a presence in the rainforest helps keep the lemurs safe. In one area in the east of Madagascar, there is a rest house used by young researchers from Italy, the USA and UK.
With teams constantly scouting for lemurs and keeping track of their movements, life is made difficult for anyone who is thinking of moving into an area for hunting or logging purposes. As one expert explained, just having researchers in the forests acts as a deterrent.
However, everyone realises the challenge as the human population of Madagascar booms and the average person living on less than $2 per day, the times of the lemur propspering in the wild may be numbered.