The Oakland Zoo helped to create and support an engaging conservation and education program that has reached over 1,000 Malagasy students, teachers, and interns.
Walking through the forest in Madagascar with a canopy of tree branches rustling above is the perfect setting to catch a rare glimpse of a lemur swinging between tree limbs. All 113 species of lemurs are only found in Madagascar, an island roughly the size of California. Unfortunately, as of 2020, 98% of all lemur species are listed as threatened by IUCN; a third of those species are just one step away from extinction. Lemur conservation can only be successful if it supports community-led opportunities to end poverty and expands environmental awareness to the people of Madagascar. Oakland Zoo is doing our part to ensure a healthy habitat and a thriving future for lemurs and people alike.
The lush rainforest of Madagascar is disappearing due to illegal logging, charcoal production, slash-and-burn agriculture, and mining. Impoverished farmers are looking for new land to grow crops like rice and cassava, often at the cost of destroying part of the forest. Beautiful rare woods like rosewood are in high demand by first world countries, and illegal logging is growing to meet this profitable demand. To make matters worse, the economic crisis of the global pandemic exacerbated many of these issues, pushing those living on the edge of poverty to do anything they can to make money.
Bushmeat hunting has begun to threaten the lemur population. Due to dwindling food sources and the need for iron and protein-rich foods, many people in Madagascar are turning to traditional fishing and hunting techniques. There is evidence of snare traps designed to catch lemurs. Lemur meat is also being offered at some restaurants.
Lemur infants and juveniles are being poached from the wild and sold to hotels or tourists. It is illegal to own a pet lemur in Madagascar. However, the law is hard to enforce in remote villages, a lack of law enforcement in some areas, and minimal knowledge of the lemur law. It is estimated that more than 28,000 lemurs have been illegally removed from the forest between 2010 and 2020.
Oakland Zoo supports the mission of Centre ValBio through an annual partnership grant. Centre ValBio is working to preserve Lemur populations by educating communities about the plight of this endangered species, providing healthcare to local villages (especially during COVID), helping refine business skills in nearby communities, and activating Malagasy in reforestation.
Oakland Zoo shares conservation issues facing lemurs and empowering solutions to conserve them to the public through a variety of channels: Docents and Volunteers, Teen Wild Guides, Education programs, events, exhibits, campaigns, Keeper Talks, and media stories.
Oakland Zoo celebrates lemurs and the conservation work done to ensure their survival with special events at the zoo. Oakland Zoo is committed to combating many issues that impact lemurs, including deforestation, illegal hunting, and pet trade captures.
Oakland Zoo provides yearly professional development training for field partners, offering them a myriad of staff skills and resources to enhance conservation efforts. The Zoo also has a close relationship with Centre ValBio's "My Rainforest, My World" program -- our education staff members purchase school supplies, offer ongoing assistance, and even helped build a classroom in the village of Ranovao. Additionally, they worked with Centre ValBio to create an education curriculum for those who travel to work abroad in Madagascar at Centre ValBio.