Are lemurs threatened or are they endangered? Why?
There are different levels of threat to the survival of various lemur species and subspecies. Some lemurs,
such as the Red-ruffed Lemur and some types of bamboo lemurs, are considered "Critically Endangered," with only a
few remaining in the wild and a drastically reduced range of habitat. A step down is the list of "Endangered"
lemurs, which includes the Hairy-eared Dwarf Lemur, the Golden Brown Mouse Lemur, and the Black and White Ruffed
Lemur. These lemurs are not as close to the brink of extinction as those on the critical list but still face a
good possibility of vanishing in the near future. "Vulnerable" species are facing a risk of extinction in the
mid-term future, but not as soon as those on the endangered and critically endangered lists. The Black Lemur,
Crowned Lemur, and a number of Fork-marked Lemurs are all on the vulnerable list. The group with the best chance
of survival is considered "Lower Risk," and includes the Avahi, the Lesser Bamboo Lemur, and a number of Sportive
lemurs. Visit the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for more information
about specific species and the criteria for each category.
Reasons for the threat to the survival of lemurs in their native home of Madagascar include large-scale
deforestation for the purposes of agriculture and timber production, hunting of lemurs for food,
and even fear of mysterious creatures like the Aye-aye. Madagascar is not a wealthy country, and conservation
is not the first thing on someone's mind when he needs to put food on the table.
What is being done to help ensure their survival?
There are parts of the Madagascar rainforest which have been set aside as protected areas for the large
number of unique plants and animals that call it home, and there are movements to expand those
protected lands. In addition, the Malagasy people are being educated about why it's necessary to ensure the survival not only
of the lemurs of Madagascar, but of all its remaining indigenous life forms. In an effort to bring money
into the country while also preserving the environment, rather than gaining cash by the destruction of its
natural resouces as has been done in the past, ecotourism has become a new source of profit. With
ecotourism, everyone wins. Money is brought into the country and visitors get the chance of a lifetime —
to see this beautiful and diverse part of the world.
How can I help?
You might consider "adopting" a lemur at the Duke Lemur
Center. A tax-deductible donation of $50 a year will help care for a Loris, Lesser Bushbaby or Bamboo Lemur, and $500 a year
can help the unusual and noctural Aye-Aye. Other amounts from $100 - $300 can go toward the care of other types
of lemurs. Duke also has an online gift shop with lots of lemur-related items.
More organizations dedicated to research and/or conservation can be found here under Resources. You can make a tax-deductible donation to most, or if you'd rather put in some sweat equity, check
local facilities or zoos for volunteer opportunities.
If you're up for an adventure, ask your travel agent to check into Madagascar ecotourism. It's a long trip
but will show you a whole new world, as well as promote rainforest conservation.
Where can I see lemurs in the United States?
The Duke Lemur Center offers tours most days of the week by
appointment. If you're planning on being in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, give them a call. A number of
zoos around the country also have lemurs, so check with your local zoo to see who lives there.
Can I have a lemur as a pet?
In a word, no. Lemurs are wild animals, not pets. Although they're cute and furry, you're much better off with a cat. Not only
do you not need the responsibility of taking care of an animal which may be on the Endangered list — if you
could find one, which would be a tough task in the first place — but lemur behavior does not make for an
ideal pet. Between scent-marking their territory, being very inquisitive (don't get too attached to those
knick-knacks Grandma gave you), and not being housetrainable, the best place for lemurs is in the wild. The
next-best place for lemurs is in a facility where trained professionals are working to take care of them and
make sure the species live to see another millennium. The worst place... is your living room.