Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Madagascar's Lemurs In Danger From 'Timber Mafia'

lemurThe lemur, a furry primate that symbolises Madagascar's unique biodiversity, is under renewed threat from a ''timber mafia'' pillaging the island's forests for profit.

Environmentalists warn that a political crisis in the impoverished country is reversing conservation gains of recent years and putting hundreds if not thousands of species, many not yet identified, at risk of extinction.

Madagascar, which has been isolated from land masses for more than 160 million years, is the world's fourth largest island and a ''conservation hot spot'', with thousands of exotic species found only here. These include nearly 100 species of lemur, six of which are deemed critically endangered.

Decades of logging, mining and slash-and-burn farming have destroyed 90 per cent of Madagascar's forests, though the rate has slowed down in the past two decades.

Former president Marc Ravalomanana was praised for putting 6 million hectares under protection and backing sustainable farming. But Mr Ravalomanana was ousted in March in a violent coup that led to a breakdown of law and order. And conservationists say that armed gangs are exploiting the security vacuum to pillage rosewood and ebony from supposedly protected forests on behalf of a so-called ''timber mafia''.

Full story here.

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