Saving lemurs through scientific breakthroughs and on-the-ground conservation programming.
Saving lemurs through scientific breakthroughs and on-the-ground conservation programming
The Duke Lemur Center advances science, scholarship, and biological conservation through interdisciplinary research on lemurs at its living laboratory in North Carolina. By engaging scientists, students and the public in new discoveries and global awareness, the Center promotes a deeper appreciation of biodiversity and an understanding of the power of scientific discovery. In addition, the mission of Duke Lemur Center’s SAVA Conservation project (DLC-SC) – implemented in northeast Madagascar – is to achieve biodiversity conservation through focused environmental education, community development, and biodiversity research.
What lemurs does the Duke Lemur Center protect?
At its innovative and expansive facilities in North Carolina, the Duke Lemur Center houses approximately 250 individual animals representing 23 species. The research at these facilities has contributed to hundreds of scientific publications (the first were published in 1964!) and has allowed real insight into the habits, diets, and behaviors of these animals. Species housed at the lemur center, include:
- Mouse lemurs (Microcebus sp.)
- Sifaka (Propithecus sp.)
- Ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta)
- Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)
How is the Duke Lemur Center protecting habitat for lemur conservation?
The DLC-SC project, which began in mid-2011, is a multifaceted community-based project that aims to preserve remaining forest habitats in northeast Madagascar, especially in the areas surrounding Marojejy National Park. This region contains over 820 square kilometers of mountainous rainforest and project activities include: environmental education, reforestation, sustainable agriculture, fish farming, fuel efficient wood/charcoal stoves, family planning, and biodiversity research.
Helping lemurs in captivity
The Duke Lemur Center’s groundbreaking studies on lemurs in captivity have allowed for some pretty amazing breakthroughs in the conservation of lemurs. Lemurs from the facility have been re-introduced into the wild (in partnership with the Madagascar Fauna and Flora group) and in the past, the center has even housed lemurs that were confiscated from the illegal pet trade in Madagascar.
Partnering with local communities
The DLC-SC undertakes extensive programming for the local community which spans many disciplines. In addition to sustainable agriculture programming and family planning services, the organization undertakes the following initiatives:
Research and park protection
The DLC-SC has an excellent collaborative relationship with Madagascar National Parks; this collaboration focuses primarily on park protection and research. In the past, DLC-SC has provided much needed gear – including sturdy raincoats and boots – for the forest guards who monitor the national park. Moving forward, in 2015 the DLC-SC will begin a collaboration with Vahatra, a Malagasy nonprofit, to simultaneously carry out biodiversity research in northeast Madagascar while building national research capacity.
In addition, the DLC-SC undertakes primary environmental education outreach by building the capacity of primary school teachers to teach environmental education, using a 64-page guidebook; this guidebook was originally produced by the Madagascar Fauna & Flora Group. To increase sustainability, these trainings are carried out in tight collaboration with the regional school districts, who integrate environmental education into the local school system and ensure a more comprehensive and culturally sensitive adoption of the material.
To alleviate hunting pressures on lemurs – and poverty more broadly – the DLC-SC has started facilitating acre-sized freshwater fishponds in Madagascar. The fishponds, which are stocked with an endemic species of fish (Paratilapia) that is locally threatened, helps revitalize fish populations in local streams and provides income and food as well. In exchange for these fish farming opportunities, communities agree to pass laws to regulate fishing in local rivers and to help use the fish farms to replenish fish stocks in nearby rivers.
Fuel-efficient cook stoves
A major threat to forests in Madagascar is the need for wood in order to make charcoal. Given that many traditional cooking methods are not very efficient, targeting cooking methods is a simple way to decrease the dependence of local communities on local forests. Therefore, in partnership with the Swiss-based ADES (Association pour la Developpement de l’Energie Solaire Suisse), DLC-SC helps distribute fuel-efficient cook stoves to local communities, in hopes that these will decrease their dependence on charcoal. The demand for these stoves is high and the DLC-SC has plans to expand their distribution in the area.