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Good news, really?

Welcome to Microcebus jonahi - a brand new species of lemur, more precisely a microcephalus that has just been discovered by scientists!

This new little big-eyed lemur was named after an illustrious Malagasy primatologist, whom I have the honour of counting among my colleagues and long-time friends. "Good news in these difficult times" is how the discovery was presented. Indeed, with this newcomer we have 25 species of microbes and 113 species of lemurs...that's nearly a quarter of the world's primate species that live only on our island!

But... forgive my cynicism, good news really? When the IUCN has just classified thirty-three - a third - of lemur species as Critically Endangered, the highest category in terms of risk of extinction, and 98% of all lemurs are classified as endangered? In 2020, thirteen lemur species have seen their conservation status degraded, mainly due to human pressures on their natural habitat.

Mr. Jonahi lives in a piece of lowland forest of some 1,500 km2 within the Mananara-North National Park. Low-altitude forests are the most threatened forest ecosystem in Madagascar, as they are the most populated and therefore the most subject to conversion to cropland, logging for the production of timber for construction or fuel wood. Needless to say, Mananara-Nord has long been one of the parks affected by the illegal exploitation of precious woods. Not to mention that hunting remains a real threat to all lemurs and that some 25,000 individuals are currently believed to be bred in captivity as domestic animals.

As soon as he is discovered, Mr. jonahi could join his fellow species on the IUCN Red List. Especially if we add to all these pressures those that will come - are already coming - from climate change. In the past, protecting a species' habitat in a protected area was a strong guarantee of survival for that species; but with climate change, protected areas will have to be rethought to be more resilient, to be better connected to each other to allow animals to move around and find more suitable habitats, and to have adequate means for their management. Above all, it will also be necessary to accelerate the economic and social development of the populations living near these protected areas so that they can live with dignity without destroying nature and cope with the impacts of future climatic hazards.

Is there any hope left for Mr. Jonahi? The global health crisis has awakened awareness of the fundamental role of nature in ensuring the health of men and women, and consultations are progressing on a new global framework for biodiversity for the next decade.  As home to 25% of the world's primates, Madagascar needs to take an active part and strengthen its own national biodiversity framework and climate commitments to include protected areas and lead to truly effective conservation action. That would be the glimmer of hope that Mr. Jonahi needs!
Opinion article - Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana