By Gaelle Borgia
Lemurs in Madagascar face extinction within 20 years short of drastic action to tackle the poverty driving islanders to poach the primates.
Each year that passes hastens the decline of the saucer-eyed primates, as the Indian Ocean island's people struggle for survival amid a drawn-out political crisis.
"As long as there is poverty, we can't expect to prevent the lemurs' extinction," said primatologist Jonah Ratsimbazafy from the University of Antananarivo.
Cast as a lovable bunch in the Madagascar movies, lemurs occur in the wild only on the island, having evolved separately from their cousins the African ape over millions of years.
Madagascar is home to 105 different species of lemur, accounting for 20% of the world's species of primate, in an area spanning less than 1% of the global habitat of all primates.
But crop burnings and wild fires destroy 200 000 hectares of Madagascar's forest a year. And the 13% of its natural forest that remains may disappear within a generation, according to Ratsimbazafy.
"If this rate of deforestation continues you could say that within 20 to 25 years there won't be any forest left, so no lemurs either," he said.
Ninety-three of the 105 known lemur species are on the endangered list. More....