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A national survey of household pet lemur ownership in Madagascar

Primates are extracted from the wild for the pet trade across the world. In Madagascar, lemurs are kept as illegal pets and an understanding of lemur pet ownership at the national level is lacking. In 2013 and 2016, we undertook a national survey in 11 of Madagascar’s 22 administrative regions (n = 28 towns) with 1,709 households. To our knowledge, this is the first national survey of the household ownership of pet primates in a country where they are endemic. In the 1.5 years prior to being surveyed, 8% ± 4% (towns as replicates) of respondents had seen a captive lemur while a further 0.7% ± 0.5% of respondents had owned one personally. We estimate that 33,428 ± 24,846 lemurs were kept in Malagasy households in the six months prior to our survey efforts, with 18,462 ± 12,963 of these pet lemurs estimated in urban household alone. Rates of lemur ownership did not differ by province but increased with the human population of a town and with the popularity of the town on Flickr (a proxy indicator for tourism). We found that the visibility of pet lemur ownership did not differ across the country, but it did increase with the size of the town and popularity with tourists. Areas with visible pet lemurs were not always the areas with the highest rates of pet lemur ownership, highlighting that many pet lemurs are hidden from the general public. Our study highlights the need for conservation programs to consider both the proportion of inhabitants that own pet lemurs and the total number of lemurs that are potentially being kept as pets in those towns. We close by noting that for some species, even just a small amount of localized live extraction for pet ownership could be enough to cause localized population extinctions over time. Moreover, an urgent response is needed to combat a recent and alarming rise in illegal exploitation of biodiversity across Madagascar.

Jonah Ratsimbazafy is a native of Madagascar. He received his PhD in Physical Anthropology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is currently the Secretary General of the Madagascar Non-human Primate Group (GERP) and the Director of the Houston Zoo Madagascar Programs. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Sciences and the Department of Medicine veterinary at the University of Antananarivo. His research interests include primate behavior and ecology. From 2006 to 2008, he was the Vice-President of the International Primatological Society for Conservation. He was the PI of the Project Lemurs and Forests of Madagascar funded by Earthwatch Institute. Currently, he is a co-Vice-Chair of the IUCN/SSC Specialist Group- Madagascar and counselor of the Lemur Conservation Network. Pr Ratsimbazafy leads Madagascar in biodiversity conservation. He is a prominent Malagasy primatologist and advocate spoker of lemur conservation. He has published more than 170 scientific publications (see his CV). For instance, he co-authored the 2nd and 3rd edition of the Field Guide Series: Lemurs of Madagascar. Since 2006, he is co-editors of the Lemur News journal. He continues to publish research papers. Ratsimbazafy’s most recent book entitled "Vatsin'ny Mpikaroka", which means Guidelines/Instructions for researchers" is an extraordinary inspiration for Malagasy to follow in Jonah’s footsteps.  His legacy will live on for Malagasy far into the future. Jonah Ratsimbazafy is a world class leader in primatology. He leads a new generation of primatologists. He has attended International Meetings in Japan, Vietnam, the United States, and Uganda, and given outstanding presentations. He represents Madagascar throughout the world. His success as an international primatologist and conservationist is renowned and this book represents his hard work, fine research and good deeds. In August 2013, Professor Ratsimbazafy co-organized the 5th International Prosimian Congress at Centre Valbio, Ranomafana - Madagascar. Madagascar's biodiversity is unique, but it is facing tremendous pressures due to deforestation/hunting. As a result, many species are currently on the verge of extinction. 

Ute Radespiel

Studied Biology from 1983-1990 in Regensburg and Göttingen (Germany)

Doctoral degree in 1998 at the University of Hannover (Germany)

Research fellow at the TiHo between 1998-2002 incl. one year postdoctoral studies in

London/Cardiff, U.K.

2002-2005 : Lecturer at the TiHo

2005: Habilitation in the field of Zoology

2006-2009 : senior lecturer at TiHo

since 2009 : adjunct professor at the TiHo

Research activities incl. yearly visits to Madagascar since 1995

Member of the International Primatological Society (IPS), Gesellschaft für Primatologie (GfP), Society for Tropical Ecology (gtoe), GERP, Zoological Society (DZG), IUCN SSC PSG

Review activities for > 9 funding agencies (incl. DFG, DAAD, Leakey Foundation, Primate Conservation

Inc., Alexander-von-Humboldt Stiftung) and for > 25 scientific journals

80 scientific publications, 24 book chapters, 121 contributions to scientific meetings, 57 oral presentations.

Supervision of 19 PhD students, 6 Master students, 10 Diploma students and 16 Bachelor students

Domaines d’expertise/Area of expertise: Behaviour, social structure, habitat use, genetics,

taxonomy, species distribution and occurrences, nocturnal species and forest fragmentation

Espèces étudiées / Species: Microcebus sp., Lepilemur sp.

Tecot Stacey

Stacey Tecot is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and the Director of the Laboratory for the Evolutionary Endocrinology of Primates (LEEP) at the University of Arizona. She uses a combination of field and lab methods to understand how social and physical environments shape the behavior and physiology of humans and non-human primates. She is a primate behavioral ecologist and conservationist whose research examines the influence of climate and habitat disturbance on hormones, behavior, and distribution; the effects of dispersal patterns on male sociality and cooperation; hormonal correlates of infant care and cooperation; and social, kinship, and ecological influences on the gut microbiome. Her field research takes places in Madagascar, including Ranomafana National Park, Tsinjoarivo, and Kirindy Mitea National Park, and she also works collaboratively with other researchers on studies of humans, dogs, and monkeys.

Domaines d’expertise/Area of expertise: Ecology, Disease/Parasites, Reproduction, Social Systems

Espèces étudiées / Species: Eulemur rubriventer (I have also worked with Propithecus diadema, P. edwardsi, Microcebus murinus, Prolemur simus)

Mittermeier Russell A.

Russell A. Mittermeier is currently Chief Conservation Officer of Global Wildlife Conservation.  Prior to this position, he served for three years as Executive Vice Chair at Conservation International and as President of that organization from 1989 to 2014.  Named a “Hero for the Planet” by TIME magazine, Mittermeier is regarded as a world leader in the field of biodiversity and tropical forest conservation.  Trained as a primatologist and herpetologist, he has traveled widely in 169 countries on seven continents, and has conducted field work in more than 30 focusing particularly on Amazonia (especially Brazil and Suriname), the Atlantic forest region of Brazil, and Madagascar.

The scope of his activities goes way beyond his position at Conservation International.  Since 1977, Mittermeier has served as Chairman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group, and he has been a member of the Steering Committee of the Species Survival Commission since 1982.  Prior to working for Conservation International, he spent 11 years at World Wildlife Fund U.S. (19781989), starting as Director of its Primate Program and ending up as Vice-President for Science.  He also served as an IUCN Regional Councillor for the period 20042012, was elected as one of IUCN’s four Vice-Presidents for the period 20092012, and then was elected a lifetime Honorary IUCN Member in 2012.  In addition, he has been an Adjunct Professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook since 1978 (and received an Honorary Doctorate there in 2007), a Research Associate at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University for more than two decades, and President of the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation since 1996.  Most recently, he was instrumental in the creation of the 25 million Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, a new species-focused fund based in Abu Dhabi, and serves as one of only two international board members.

Mittermeier has been particularly influential in the Atlantic Forest region of Brazil, where he has worked since 1971, and in Madagascar, where he first began work in 1984.  Another focus has been South America’s Guiana Shield region, the most pristine rain forest area left on Earth, where he began working in 1975.  His vision for conservation in the Guianas conserving over 100 million hectares of pristine forest from Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, the northernmost part of Brazilian Amazonia, and Venezuela has been widely praised. Having worked in the region for 42 years, he has been able to win allies in many sectors, from heads-of-state to indigenous leaders, and has won a place for biodiversity conservation in government and community decision-making.

In 1986, Mittermeier created the concept of “Megadiversity Countries”, which recognizes that just 18 nations are responsible for more than two-thirds of all biodiversity terrestrial, freshwater, and marine a concept that has been picked up by several of the nations in this category.  It also led to the independent creation of a “Like-minded Group of Megadiverse Countries” within the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).  At about the same time, he came up with the concept of “Major Tropical Wilderness Areas”, which later became known as “High Biodiversity Wilderness Areas.  He also has been the major proponent of the “Biodiversity Hotspots” concept, which was created by British ecologist Norman Myers in 1988 and immediately adopted by Mittermeier.  Myers first published on 10 Hotspots, and then 18.  Based on research conducted by Mittermeier and colleagues, the total has now grown to 36.

Over the course of his career, Mittermeier’s work has taken him to many different tropical rain forests around the world, to the point that he has now almost certainly been to more of these forests than anyone else ever.

Mittermeier has been particularly interested in the discovery and description of species new to science.  He has described a total of 19 new species (three turtles, seven lemurs, two tarsiers, and seven monkeys) and has eight species named in his honor (three frogs, a lizard, two lemurs, a saki monkey, and an ant).

More recently, he has become involved in the climate change issue, in particular highlighting the importance of tropical forests in mitigating climate change.  He has helped to promote the concept of “avoided deforestation” (aka REDD Reduction in Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), and particularly the very significant role of the High Forest Cover Low Deforestation Rate (HFLD) countries such as Suriname and Guyana, which helped to add the “+” to REDD”.

Since 2008, Mittermeier has been active in promoting Conservation International’s new mission, focused on demonstrating that “People Need Nature to Thrive”.  The essence of this mission is that natural capital needs to be central to long-term sustainable development, and that nature is essential in ensuring human well-being.

He has also been a leader in promoting species-focused ecotourism, particularly primate-watching and primate life-listing, based on the very successful model of the bird-watching community.  To facilitate this, he launched a Tropical Field Guide Series and a Pocket Guide Series focused heavily on primates, but including a number of other species groups as well.  The most recent publications to emerge in the Tropical Field Guide Series are Lemurs of Madagascar, 3rd Edition (2010), and Primates of West Africa (2011), with a French edition of the former, Lémuriens de Madagascar, published in June 2014. His own primate life-list, now totaling more than 350 species, is almost certainly the largest in the world, and serves as a baseline for other primate life-listers.

In addition, Mittermeier has had a lifelong interest in tribal peoples, and has worked with many different communities, from the Trio of southern Suriname and the Saramaccaner, Matawai, and Aucaner Maroons of central Suriname to the Kayapó of the Brazilian Amazon, and has engaged them in a variety of different conservation endeavors.  He has also published on the strong connections between biodiversity and human cultural diversity, demonstrating how strongly the highest priority areas for each overlap.

Among the many honors he has received are the San Diego Zoological Society’s Gold Medal (1988), the Order of the Golden Ark of The Netherlands, from Prince Bernhard (1995), the Cincinnati Zoo Wildlife Conservation Award (1997), the Brazilian Muriqui Prize (1997), the Grand Sash and Order of the Yellow Star, Republic of Suriname, from President Jules Wijdenbosch (1998), the Order of the Southern Cross, from President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil (1998), the Aldo Leopold Award from the American Society of Mammalogists (2004), Sigma Xi’s John P. McGovern Science and Society Award (2007), the Sir Peter Scott Award of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (2008), the Association of Tropical Biology’s Special Recognition Award for Conservation (2008), Harvard University’s Roger Tory Peterson Medal (2009), the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s João Pedro Cardoso Award (2011), and Instituto-E and the City of Rio de Janeiro’s E-Award (2012) in recognition of his conservation work.  In 2016, he was elected to the American Association for Arts and Sciences (AAAS).  In 2017, he was awarded the prestigious Centennial Award of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

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