Rare Blue-Eyed Lemurs Could Go Extinct In 11 Years

Tambako The Jaguar via flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

Sclater’s lemur (Eulemur flavifrons), also aptly called the blue-eyed black lemur, is a critically endangered true lemur that is endemic to the forests of northwestern Madagascar. Computer simulations described in a new study published in the African Journal of Ecology by researchers at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa indicates that if conditions do not improve, these primates could be extinct in the wild within 11 years.

Due to extensive habitat destruction that left populations fragmented, these lemurs have had an increasingly difficult time of reproducing for the simple reason that it’s harder to find each other. Fewer trees also means fewer sources of the nectar, pollen, and fruit that serve as the majority of the lemurs’ diet. There have been instances where lemurs try to eat crops from the farmland that replaced its natural habitat, but farmers typically regard the lemurs as a pest, and kill them as such.

Sclater’s lemurs were first categorized as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in 1986. Populations have continued to decrease, and their condition was reclassified as Critically Endangered in 1996, where it has remained since. Currently, there are only an estimated 1,000 of the primates remaining in the wild.

The team ran computer simulations of six different scenarios, predicting the survival of the lemurs over the next century. Each scenario was run 100 times for accuracy. Data about the lemurs were based on those living in the Ankarafa Forest of Sahamalaza Peninsula National Park, and included reproduction rates, population density, average lifespan, and a number of other factors. 

The scenarios run by the computer explored how lemurs would fare when faced with varying rates of habitat destruction that are comparable to what is currently taking place. Sadly, all six scenarios resulted in extinction for the lemurs long before the end of the century. The lowest rates of habitat destruction would see an end to the lemurs in 44 years, with the highest rates eliminating them in only 11 years.

Of course, this is just a computer model based on consistent rates of habitat destruction. Though the researchers believe their methodology in the study is sound, they state that it does need to be refined. Additionally, they suggest a number of ways to slow habitat destruction and conserve what is left of the wild Sclater’s lemur population.

[Hat tip: BBC]

Image credit: Tambako The Jaguar via flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

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