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In 2022, we celebrate National Lemurs Day under the theme: "Lemurs, unique heritages! Let's protect their habitats".
Microcebus berthae, the smallest primate in the world, is threatened with extinction and could be the first primate to become extinct in the 21st century, according to Jonah Ratsimbazafy, president of the Primate Study and Research Group (Gerp). Indeed, the protected area of Menabe Antimena where he lives is ravaged by deforestation. The region has been undergoing a massive migration for several years and the forests are being burned and cleared for the intensive and illegal cultivation of corn and peanuts. This risks leading to the total disappearance of endemic species in the Menabe, including the Microcèbe de Madame Berthe.
Jonah Ratsimbazafy suggests that "for species that are already thought to be endangered, captive breeding should serve as a safety net if there is a risk that the wild population will disappear in the wild. This is the case of the Microcèbe de Madame Berthe. This requires the preparation of professional and specialized people and a collaboration between professionals in the largest zoos in the world and specialized researchers. So there should be a special fund for this, which is an emergency fund."
For Jonah Ratsimbazafy, the first thing to do against the extinction of lemurs is to stop the forest fires, a hemorrhage that must be urgently stopped. Whatever we can do, lemurs will not be saved if their habitat is destroyed.
Secondly, as the forests are destroyed, the lemurs are increasingly isolated and do not mix with other species. There is thus a risk of inbreeding, which accelerates their vulnerability. It is thus essential to do research on the possibilities of translocation (introduction of new individuals in natural habitats) to these isolated populations, in order to increase genetic diversity.
Finally, in addition to environmental education, which must be introduced into the school curriculum, awareness raising at all levels and at all ages is necessary.
To fight against corruption and species trafficking, here are some recommendations
- Empowerment and capacity building of local communities in the reporting of environmental crimes
- Exemplary penalties enacted by the courts to deter traffickers
- Updating of wildlife legislation as some penalties do not punish offenses in proportion to the seriousness of the offence.