Lemurs, an endangered species found on Madagascar, are being illegally hunted and ending up roasted at restaurants on the world’s fourth-largest island.
An increase in logging in protected nature reserves has opened areas for hunting the tree-leaping primate, with “large” numbers now ending up as dinner in local restaurants, Russ Mittermeier, president of Conservation International, said today in a telephone interview from Washington.
“What we’re seeing is likely just the tip of the iceberg,” Mittermeier said. “Once this kind of hunting starts, it’s very easy to destroy an entire population within weeks. These are very naïve animals and easy to hunt.”
Poachers are paid about 50 U.S. cents for each lemur, which are then sold to restaurants for about $4, the conservation group said. Hunters use slingshots, poison and traps to kill the lemurs, which are noted for their large reflective eyes and wailing cries of the Indri and other species. Lemurs are only found on Madagascar and smaller surrounding islands.
The surge in lemur hunting is taking place amid a political crisis in Madagascar, a former French colony, adding to a lack of monitoring and protection of nature reserves in parts of the island off southeast Africa. The lemurs, which range in size from one-ounce pygmies to 22 pounds, live in communities as small as a few acres and as large as a few hundred.
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