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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.
Experts
Razafindratsima Onja

Dr. Onja H. Razafindratsima is an ecologist dedicated to the study of the processes and mechanisms that determine the structure and diversity of ecological communities in natural and human-modified environments. Some of her recent research focused on understanding the importance of seed dispersal by lemur frugivores in structuring plant communities in Malagasy rain forests, and the consequences of lemur loss on forest integrity and human wellbeing. She also investigates how past extinction of lemurs in the Holocene influence the structure of present-day lemur communities and how these patterns of extinctions relates to current extinction threats to improve predictions of future species declines and guide conservation efforts of these highly threatened taxa.

Experts
Razafindramanana Josia

After receiving her Ph.D at Oxford Brookes University – UK, she founded the Sifaka Conservation programme aiming at protecting the remaining crowned sifaka populations in small and fragmented forests by establishing the metapopulation management approach. She is currently leading the Environment Department at Ambatovy Company, and is also giving lectures at the University of Antananarivo, department of Anthropology and Sustainable Development. Her interests include applied ecology for conservation management and decision-making processes, Sustainable development for the benefit of biodiversity Conservation. She also believes that practical environmental education would make big differences in the long-term community development and biodiversity conservation.


Experts
Schwitzer Christoph

Dr Christoph Schwitzer has been Chief Zoological Officer and Deputy Chief Executive of the Bristol Zoological Society (BZS) since August 2018, with Executive Board responsibility for BZS’s two animal collections at Bristol Zoo Gardens and the Wild Place Project, as well as its veterinary services, its Institute of Conservation Science and Learning (including the Learning, and Field Conservation and Science departments), its public programming, and for Wild Place Project’s general daily operations. Prior to this he was BZS’s Director of Conservation for four years (2014–2018) and Head of Research for eight years (2006–2014). Before coming to Bristol, Christoph worked as part of the primatological research group at Cologne Zoo, Germany, and spent two years in Madagascar building a field station and heading a lemur research and conservation programme. Christoph gained his PhD in Zoology from the University of Cologne in 2003 and has been a Visiting Professor at the University of the West of England since 2013. He is the Deputy Chair and Red List Authority Coordinator of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group. He was a Vice President of the International Primatological Society between 2012 and 2016 and is currently the Vice President of the Association Européenne pour l’Etude et la Conservation des Lémuriens, a consortium of European zoos dedicated to lemur conservation. He is a trustee of the Natural History Consortium, serves on the Council of BIAZA and is a member of the EAZA Research Committee and the EAZA Prosimian TAG, and adviser to the EAZA Callitrichidae TAG.

Experts
Samonds Karen Elizabeth

My research is focused on the origin and evolutionary history of Madagascar’s modern fauna, one of the most unique and endemic on the planet. How, when, and from where they arrived has remained largely unknown due to a 65-million-year gap in the fossil record that occurs precisely within the time period during which the modern vertebrate groups are hypothesized to have colonized the island. My research has sought to fill in this “gap” in a number of different ways. I also continue to collaborate with colleagues on projects examining dental development, life history, anatomy and growth in both living and subfossil lemurs. These collaborations have examined life history variation in extant and extinct primates (including electron microscopy and ontogenetic studies of dental eruption and root formation), and collected data from captures of wild lemurs to characterize their growth and health in pristine forest and disturbed fragments.

Domaines d’expertise/Area of expertise:  Subfossil lemurs, Lemur growth and dental development, Lemur life history

Espèces étudiées / Species: Propithecus diadema

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