ANDASIBE NATIONAL PARK, Madagascar – They are cat-like, even cartoonish, but you just have to look at their fingernails to feel a human connection. Lemurs simply melt the heart, and it’s not hard to see why they’d be cast as stars in a children’s animated movie.
“They represent about a quarter of the primate species in the world,” University of Calgary associate professor and researcher Steig Johnson said.
“It’s this huge component of our own family and it only exists in the one place…Madagascar.”
As many as 120 species of lemurs are springing from the branches of Madagascar’s lush forests. It may seem like a healthy number, but their populations are dwindling at a rapid pace–largely due to deforestation in the country.
Johnson has partnered with the Calgary Zoo to try to rebuild ecosystems in the country.
“We collect their fecal samples, where the fruit-eating lemurs have eaten the food they love, and we collect the seeds that have been defecated,” he said. “And we plant the seeds in the reforestation areas. We are getting a head start on what lemurs are actually going to use…and we are benefiting native flora as well.”
The Calgary Zoo is helping to fund the project and is also in the process of building a multimillion-dollar exhibit to raise awareness about the plight of the lemurs.