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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
Sauther Michelle L.

As a primate ecologist I am interested in how habitat change affects the behavior and the biology of Madagascar primates. My work focuses on how primate populations directly respond to forest degradation, fragmentation. Since 2003 my project on wild ring-tailed lemurs, Lemur catta,  studies how both immediate and long term environmental factors, such as climate and anthropogenic change affect Malagasy primate behavior and biology. Key components include yearly monitoring of health and population dynamics. This data set is unrivaled among current primate research, and is extremely relevant to on-going work on the effects of climate and habitat change on the world’s endangered animals and how primates adapt to such changes.

Domaines d’expertise/Area of expertise: Behavior, ecology, morphometrics, parasites and maladies

Espèces étudiées / Species: Lemur catta (the ring-tailed lemur)

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.


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