Lemur poaching continues in Madagascar [warning: graphic pictures]

/ Wildmadagascar.org

A lemur poacher was intercepted with 32 dead lemurs on New Year's Eve in Madagascar's northeastern town of Vohemar, suggesting that killing of lemurs for the commercial bushmeat trade continues on the island nation, reports Fanamby, a Madagascar-based conservation group.


Crowned lemur in Ankarana, Madagascar. Photo by Rhett A. Butler 2009.

A lemur poacher was intercepted with 32 dead lemurs on New Year’s Eve in Madagascar’s northeastern town of Vohemar, suggesting that killing of lemurs for the commercial bushmeat trade continues on the island nation, reports Fanamby, a Madagascar-based conservation group.

The poacher, whose name was not immediately released, was busted during a routine check. Most of the corpses were crowned lemurs (Eulemur Coronatus), but genetic testing is being conducted to determine whether other species were involved. The lemurs were poisoned, a new development which may have implications for human health, according to a statement from Fanamby.

“The use of poison for lemur poaching is new and could have an impact on the consumer’s health,” said Sylvain, a local environmentalist.






Dead lemurs. Images courtesy of Fanamby

Until now, lemurs were typically trapped using snares or shot. But increased vigilance by local communities may have caused poachers to change tactics to avoid detection.

While local taboos have protected lemurs from hunting in many parts of Madagascar, an explosion of illegal rosewood logging in Madagascar’s rainforests in the aftermath of the March 2009 military coup has fueled a rise in lemur killing for commercial markets. Dire economic conditions—also a product of the coup, as well as a decline in vanilla prices—have exacerbated the trade. Other animals—especially turtles—are also being killed. The primary consumers are ethnic Chinese who are also involved in the rosewood trade, according to sources who asked not to be named.

Fanamby’s Rajaobelina said the only way to curtail the trade is through stronger law enforcement. On paper, lemur traffickers face 2 to 5 years in jail if they are caught, but sentences are rarely carried out. Traffickers and rosewood traders — some of whom enjoy strong ties “transition government” which seized power in 2009 — still operate with impunity in some areas.

“This is not an isolated case,” said Rajaobelina.

Russ Mittermeier, a lemur expert and president of the Conservation International, a partner of Fanamby, said that he was “horrified” by the situation.

“The environment should not be the scapegoat of any crisis,” he said.



Crowned lemur with baby in Ankarana, Madagascar. Photo by Rhett A. Butler 2009.


Lemur hunted for the bushmeat trade, image courtesy of Fanamby

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