Lemurs and Ecotourism
By John-Miguel Dalbey
Lemurs are one of the most endangered groups of primates — even vertebrates — in the world, with over 90 percent of lemur subspecies listed as endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN. There are 101 species of lemur, found only in Madagascar, further divided into 15 genera and five families. The species are especially threatened by habitat loss from illegal logging and the illegal bushmeat trade, which have both been increasing after a political coup in 2009 left the current government with inadequate resources or power to devote to forest conservation. There may even be, as of yet, an undiscovered species hidden in Madagascar’s forests.
Recently, a team of conservationist researchers, in a proposal published in Science magazine, suggested that the best chance of saving critically endangered lemurs is through ecotourism and increased conservation efforts. The research team outlined a roughly $7.6 million plan to set up ecotourism and conservation efforts such as tour guide training and organizational oversight of forested areas. The team of researchers go on to state that the funds brought in by ecotourism in Madagascar’s unique forests will aid rural communities that would otherwise turn to illegal logging to earn money, noting similarly successful programs observing mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda. However, the researchers pointed out that an increase in tourism in the area might have ecological consequences as well. In 2008, only eight tourists came to the area, while in 2011 there were 208, a number which will only rise given a concrete program. Ultimately, the researchers noted that the only thing standing between them and implementing their conservation plan is a lack of funding.
American Forests has worked in many high biodiversity areas, with several projects in Kenya, as well as a series of reforestation efforts in Texas, with the potential for ecotourism. We support community based efforts, such as the Madagascar proposal, which aid both forest and biodiversity preservation.