Bushmeat trade threatens Madagascar's rare lemurs

Fri Aug 21, 2009 12:43pm EDT
 
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By Richard Lough

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Endangered lemur species found only in Madagascar are being slaughtered and served up in local restaurants as poachers take advantage of a security vacuum on the island after a coup earlier this year.

Pictures of the blackened remains of scores of crowned lemurs and golden crowned sifakas, smoked in preparation for transport, have been released by the environmental protection group Conservation International.

James Mackinnon, technical director at the group's Madagascar office, said gangs were pillaging the forests of precious hardwoods and trapping rare animals for Asia's pet market, unwinding hard-fought conservation gains on the island.

"Lemurs have always been hunted on a small, subsistence scale. This is bigger, more organized and systematic and it's typical of what we've been seeing with the breakdown in law and order," he told Reuters on Friday.

Conservationists say biodiversity on the world's fourth largest island is being wiped out on a shocking scale.

Foreign donors, who provided the bulk of funding for the country's national parks and environmental programs, suspended aid after Andry Rajoelina toppled the island's president with the help of renegade troops in March.

Operating on a shoestring budget, the authorities have been unable to control the surge in criminal activity.

The Indian Ocean island, isolated from other land masses for more than 160 million years, is a biodiversity "hotspot" home to hundreds of exotic species found nowhere else in the world.   Continued...

 
<p>Lemurs illegally killed by poachers in Madagascar to be sold to restaurants as "luxury" bushmeat are seen in this undated handout photograph. Endangered lemur species found only in Madagascar are being slaughtered and served up in local restaurants as poachers take advantage of a security vacuum on the island after a coup earlier this year. REUTERS/Joel Narivony/Fanamby/Handout</p>