By John R. Platt
Endangered lemurs have become luxury items on the menus of some Madagascar restaurants, reports Conservation International (CI) and its local partner, the environmental nonprofit Fanamby. The Indian Ocean island nation has experienced political upheaval in recent months, with its president stepping down in March under intense pressure. The unrest has resulted in Madagascar’s suspension from the African Union and the withdrawal of international support that has long helped to fund environmental and conservation efforts in the nation.
The political breakdown in Madagascar, home to up to 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity, has created a boom market for environmental crime, ranging from illegal logging to the collection of animals for the pet trade, CI reports. Now, poaching of two endangered lemur species has started occurring in regions that were once protected and where poaching has not been observed for years.
The Sava region in the northern area of Madagascar "hasn’t had significant lemur poaching in the last few years because there’s been a major conservation effort there," says Russ Mittermeier, CI’s president and one of the world’s leading authorities on lemurs.
"This is a major consequence of the breakdown in Madagascar. As soon as you have political breakdown, the local mafias come in for timber, then go after whatever else they can get," Mittermeier says. "They rip off natural resources as quickly as possible." More....