Lemurs Hunted, Eaten Amid Civil Unrest, Group Says

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
August 21, 2009

Rare lemurs are being hunted as an exotic delicacy in the midst of Madagascar's political unrest, conservationists say.

Since a March coup d'etat in the island country, long-nurtured conservation measures have quickly fallen by the wayside—making lemurs the targets of hunting gangs.

The criminals are fueling demand for a new bush-meat delicacy in the country's upscale restaurants, according to the nonprofit Conservation International.

No one knows how many lemurs have been killed, but species such as the golden crowned sifaka—considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature—are being targeted.

(Related: "Lemur Forests Pillaged by "Gangs" as Madagascar Reels.")

The poor nation relies on aid from foreign sources—such as the World Bank and the U.S. government—to run agencies that keep its national parks going.

But since the ousting of President Marc Ravalomanana, outside funding has been cut off and a power struggle has gripped the capital.

"With the political unrest, for the past four months or so, no [conservationists have] really worked," said Serge Rajaobelina, president of Fanamby, a Malagasy nonprofit environmental organization.

"There was no government, no police, and people took advantage of that situation" to kill lemurs, Rajaobelina, said yesterday from the field, where he is helping officials arrest poachers.

Squandered Success?

Less than a year ago Madagascar—home to the highest number of plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth—was a different place.

The country "was on the verge of becoming a success story," said lemur expert Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International.

Continued on Next Page >>




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