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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
STEVENS Nancy Jeanne

Stevens investigates impacts of environmental change through time by exploring patterns of biogeography and extinction in the fossil record. Her work draws on comparative vertebrate anatomy and the application of functional morphological approaches to evolutionary questions. Stevens’ paleontological research aims to provide a comparative dataset to examine geographic and temporal patterns in faunal evolution. New fossils help unravel the roles of phylogeny and environment for shaping the development of morphological differences associated with specific locomotor and dietary patterns. Stevens has conducted laboratory and field kinematic studies on modern species, with projects relating to arboreal substrate use and feeding. She is particularly interested in documenting how critically endangered animals utilize structural habitats that are rapidly changing due to anthropogenic and natural environmental change. Recent projects in Madagascar have explored these questions in critically endangered primates and other mammals.

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
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)

Experts
RATSIMBAZAFY Jonah

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. 

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