Seeing lemurs in Madagascar in their natural habitat can help save this critically endangered species.
First things first.
What exactly is a lemur?
Lemurs are a primate. Specifically, they are prosimian primates. Primates that aren’t monkey nor apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans). There are 103 species of lemurs.
What Kind of Lemurs are in the Madagascar Movies?
When you think of a lemur, you probably think of a ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta). That’s the type that King Julien XIII was. A self-proclaimed King of the Lemurs.
In the movies, there was also Maurice. He was an assistant and herald for Julien. He’s an Aye-aye lemur.
There was also Mort. He was a Mouse lemur who adores Julien.
But there are 103 species of lemurs in total. The other ones just aren’t as well-known.
Is it Really Worth Going All the Way to Madagascar Just to See a Lemur?
Well, from the name of this site you can probably guess what I’m going to say…. So yes!
Madagascar is the only place on earth where you can see lemurs in the wild. So if you want to see a lemur it’s your only option.
I’m admittedly biased. However, I’m not the only one who thinks so.
ABC News dedicated a segment to lemurs:
And they’re so fascinating that IMAX dedicated an entire movie to them. The Island of Lemurs: Madagascar staring Morgan Freeman!
So how can seeing lemurs in the wild help save them?
As mentioned, lemurs are only found in Madagascar. Sadly, their population has decreased by 95% since 2000. There are now only an estimated 2000 – 2400 animals left.
Of the 25 most endangered primates in the world, 6 of them are in Madagascar according to the IUCN.
The now-empty forests are “very sad, quiet and dusty,” says Marni LaFleur, a lemur researcher, and director of Lemur Love.
Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel has been fortunate enough to partner with them for our upcoming Madagascar tour.
More on that later but you can check our video in the meantime:
Why are Lemurs in Madagascar Endangered?
The main reasons for the decline of lemurs are habitat destruction and forest fragmentation. Hunting for subsistence and the illegal bushmeat trade are also key factors.
You can even eat endangered lemurs in some Malagasy restaurants. It should go without saying. But please
DO NOT EAT LEMURS WHEN YOU VISIT MADAGASCAR!
While ring-tailed lemurs may be the flagship species, there are 103 lemur species. They all fall under the protection of CITES. Sadly, 90% of all lemur species are threatened.
My intention isn’t to depress you. But to show you how critical lemur conservation is. And more importantly, how you can help.
How You Can Help Save Lemurs by Travelling to Madagascar
According to the Lemur Conservation Network:
Many conservationists agree that ecotourism is the number one thing that can ensure the survival of lemurs in Madagascar. The local Malagasy people need to see that lemurs are more valuable alive than dead.
Tourists will come to see lemurs in the wild. Officials say tourism is now a real priority for Madagascar’s new government… That can attract up to two million annual visitors by 2020.
This would mean millions of dollars for Madagascar’s economy.
Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda as a Case Study for Lemurs in Madagascar?
Over the past 35 years, the mountain gorilla population has almost doubled to approximately 880 individuals. That’s still really low. And gorillas are still critically endangered. However, it is a significant improvement.
Official estimates suggest that 85% of the tourism industry (in Rwanda) is gorilla-centric. Source: Discover Magazine.
In one day that resulted in $68,250. And that was just from gorillas permits. That doesn’t count for the additional income brought in through accommodations, meals etc. And that was just for one day.
In 2005, Rwanda started a revenue-sharing initiative with the national parks giving 5% back of revenues to local villages. That’s resulted in $1.8 million. And hundreds of community development projects.
In other words, when Rwandans benefited from ecotourism, so did the gorillas.
Ecotourism to Save Lemurs in Madagascar
According to the World Bank, Madagascar is one of the poorest countries on the planet. 70% of the population is considered poor.
It’s hard to think about saving lemurs f your stomach is growling or if your child is looking up at you wide-eyed with hunger.
According to Our Africa, only 200,000 people visit Madagascar a year. To put that in perspective, Venice – just one city, receives 20 million tourists.
Florida alone attracts 100 million tourists a year.
Imagine, the positive economic development that ecotourism could have on Madagascar.
According to Dr. Tara Clarke, former Visiting Assistant Professor, Duke University and former Director of Outreach, Lemur Love, Inc:
I believe that responsible eco-tourism can lead to positive impacts for lemur conservation. At the same time simultaneously contributing to Madagascar’s local economy.
When tourists become emerged in the diverse local cultures and traditions. And when they experience first hand how severe poverty is. They can see that it’s one of the underlying issues contributing to the loss of habitat and biodiversity. That can inspire change.
While Madagascar and its endemic lemurs are under serious threat, there is still hope. And together we can make a difference for the people and wildlife.
When I decided to create a tour to Madagascar, it was because of a desire to help make a positive impact on lemur conservation. Something that I believe ecotourism, when managed properly can do.
There are many other much more famous destinations where it made better business sense to focus. But after my visit to Madagascar and the privilege of observing lemurs in the wild, I felt compelled to do something.
Help Save Lemurs by Travelling to Madagascar:
That’s why I’m beyond excited to partner with Lemur Love for my Magic of Madagascar Ecotour: Lemurs and Other Wildlife.
It’s the first tour that I’ll be accompanying, I’ve chosen to do so based on the reasons above.
Highlights of our Madagascar Ecotour:
- Opportunity to look for Groves’dwarf lemur. It’s the newest species of lemur recently discovered.
- Observe endangered lemurs in the wild. You may even get new dance moves from watching the dancing sifakas.
- Listen for the eerie calls of the Indri. You’ve never heard anything like this!
- Hike in three of Madagascar’s most beautiful national parks.
- Meet and hang out with Dr. Marni LaFleur, Assistant Professor at the University of San Diego, and Founder and Director, Lemur Love, Inc. She’ll chat about her work and conservation projects followed by a Q &A session.
- Participate in a community-based conservation education outreach activity with local Malagasy children.
- Create lemur enrichment at ONG Reniala Lemur Rescue Center (LRC). Enrichment is an important/essential part of captive care.
- Make a positive impact on lemur conservation. $500 of your fee goes to Lemur Love. It’s a US-based non-profit (501(c)(3)). Thus all donations are tax-deductible for US citizens.
- Search for mouse lemurs and other nocturnal critters on night walks.
- Observe other wildlife. We’ll look for birds, colourful chameleons, frogs.
- Connect with like-minded individuals on the tour.
- Visit one of the most unique places on the planet. There’s nowhere else on the planet that’s like Madagascar. If you have a sense of adventure, you’ll love Madagascar.
This custom-designed wildlife of Madagascar tour gives you direct access to one of the world’s leading lemur researchers. You’ll learn directly from her for one day. At the same time, you’re also supporting her incredible work.
You’ll also have a direct impact on the local community. Our guide and driver are Malagasy. So are the numerous guides that we’ll have in the national parks. This provides local employment. It gives Malagasy an incentive to focus on lemur conservation.
Not only that, but you’ll be interacting with local Malagasy children in a community-based education project. It’s important to get the involvement of locals. Lemur Love is doing fantastic work. And you’ll get to be a part of it.
Can you tell that I’m just a wee bit excited about this tour? Confession: it’s not just excitement, it’s THE most important tour that I’m doing to date.
It’s easy to get depressed and think that lemurs are doomed.
Travel with me to see lemurs in Madagascar for a trip of a lifetime AND save lemurs at the same time.
You’ll be helping to create a positive future for lemurs. The time to do it is now – before it’s too late.
Help spread the message about lemurs by sharing these photos:
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This article was originally published in Dec 2017 but has since been updated.