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A male Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) in Kirindy Forest, Madagascar

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This lemur species was once common across the south of Madagascar, but is now listed as critically endangered, the last category before extinction. The fate of Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) is sadly shared by many of its cousins, with an update of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List today finding more than half of African primates outside Madagascar are now endangered to some extent.

Due to rampant deforestation and hunting in their heartland of Madagascar, lemurs have it particularly bad: 103 of the world’s 107 species of these animals are threatened by extinction. A growing lemur pet trade in the country has also emerged as a new pressure.

“Everything seems to be stacked up against lemurs,” says Russ Mittermeier at the IUCN. Local taboos about hunting Verreaux’s sifaka had previously helped the species, but with new people moving to the forests they occupy as charcoal production booms, that protection has evaporated. “It’s a wonderful, beautiful animal,” says Mittermeier.

The species is active in the day, making it great for eco-tourism, which Mittermeier thinks is one of the best hopes of protecting Africa’s primates. He points to eco-tourism’s role in the conservation success story of mountain gorillas, but he fears for the loss of visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic. “If this thing lasts for two years, it’s going to be really bad,” he says. “We could start losing species, which would be absolutely awful.”

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source: newscientist.com

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