Sir Richard's possible folly

Apr 25, 2011 by Duke Research
Two ring-tailed lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center. Credit: David Haring, Duke Lemur Center

Moving animals, like the ring-tailed lemur, from one continent to another to save the species hasn't been done often and typically isn’t successful.

But that hasn't deterred businessman and adventure tycoon Sir Richard Branson from announcing plans to import 30 ring-tailed lemurs from global zoos to his private island of Moskito, located in the Caribbean.

Branson's island lies 8,000 miles from lemurs' native home of Madagascar, where the have experienced more than 60 million years of independent evolution. Madagascar was great for them for most of that time, but lately lemurs are facing habitat decimation by human-induced logging, mining and political chaos.

These pressures are causing lemurs to disappear so quickly that they have become emblematic of the world's accelerating biodiversity crisis, says Anne Yoder, director of Duke University's Lemur Center, the world's largest facility for the conservation and study of these prosimian (non-ape or monkey) primates.

Yoder says that Branson's scheme to move ring-tailed lemurs, and possibly other types, to Moskito is "well intentioned," but, the plan is also " alarmingly misguided," specifically in terms of the lemurs' health and prospects for survival.

"We fear that if lemurs are released into Caribbean island habitats without proper oversight, they will perish," she says.

Yoder, along with other past and present Duke Lemur Center scientists, has spent more than 30 years monitoring lemur health and adaptation to exotic habitats, namely the center's free-range, 80-acre facility in a North Carolina forest. She says that though the lemurs can roam at the Durham-based center, each animal is examined each day to prevent and treat illnesses and to ensure survival.

While she and other lemur experts realize that "desperate times call for desperate measures," Yoder says Branson and others eager to help the lemurs should not ignore ways to protect and replenish the animal's native habitats in Madagascar.

Working with Malagasy partners and global experts in conservation "is the best and only sustainable solution for assuring the survival of lemurs.  We urge Sir Richard to reach out to such partners," Yoder says.

Explore further: Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lemur's evolutionary history may shed light on our own

Feb 25, 2008

After swabbing the cheeks of more than 200 lemurs and related primates to collect their DNA, researchers at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy (IGSP) and Duke Lemur Center now have a much clearer ...

Interview: Branson says island may save lemurs

Apr 19, 2011

(AP) -- Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson plans to create a colony of lemurs on an undeveloped island he owns in the Caribbean, saying Monday it's a "radical idea" to save an endangered primate that ...

Ancient DNA Confirms Single Origin of Malagasy Primates

May 27, 2005

Yale biologists have managed to extract and analyze DNA from giant, extinct lemurs, according to a Yale study published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Radiocarbon dating of the bon ...

Recommended for you

Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

Nov 21, 2014

The exclusive club of explorers who have discovered a rare new species of life isn't restricted to globetrotters traveling to remote locations like the Amazon rainforests, Madagascar or the woodlands of the ...

Mysterious glowworm found in Peruvian rainforest

Nov 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer has discovered what appears to be a new type of bioluminescent larvae. He told members of the press recently that he was walking near a camp in the Peruvian ...

The unknown crocodiles

Nov 21, 2014

Just a few years ago, crocodilians – crocodiles, alligators and their less-known relatives – were mostly thought of as slow, lazy, and outright stupid animals. You may have thought something like that ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.