Lemur Conservation & Climate Change
Unfortunately, deforestation, hunting, and now climate change are all threatening lemur survival. Protected areas have long been the solution to the first two problems, but the third is far more challenging to address. Most lemurs are highly adapted to live in specific habitats and climates. Lemur reproduction is keyed in to when the rains will come, and the availability and nutritional content of the plants they eat depends a lot on the climate.
So what will lemurs do if their favorite foods become less available as the climate changes? There are a few possibilities. Deforestation between protected areas likely means lemurs won't be able to follow their food to more suitable climates. This also could limit opportunities to find new mates (cousins don't count!), reducing the genetic diversity necessary to adapt to new climates. Perhaps the climate is changing in a way that will make foods even more nutritious, leading to an increase in lemurs in some areas. The answer is, we don't know!
This summer I will be looking for the answer to these questions in northern Madagascar. To do so, I need to hire several Malagasy (graduate students, local farmers, wildlife guides, etc.) to help find lemurs in remote forest areas and to collect the necessary data. Providing local Malagasy people with direct benefits for maintaining wildlife is one of the most effective ways to protect and conserve species. And of course, climate change is already driving Malagasy people even further into poverty.
Will you help me to provide over a dozen Malagasy men and women with conservation-based jobs from June to December 2017? We will be estimating lemur abundance in nearly a dozen forest fragments within the Loky-Manambato Protected Area and collecting their feces for dietary and genetic analysis back in the lab at Virginia Tech. Last year, we even helped to thwart some lemur poachers! You can learn more about the project by following this link: http://brandonsemel.weebly.com/ .
We will work in 12 forest fragments scattered across the region (see photo below!). One regional wildlife expert and two Malagasy graduate students will help to coordinate this, along with a cook/camp guardian to oversee our field station while the rest of us conduct our work in the forest. To ensure that local people benefit from local conservation efforts, 2-3 additional local field technicians will be hired every two weeks as we work in different sites. The average Malagasy earns $1 (USD) per day. We offer salaries of $6-10 per day (depending on skill level) and cover all meals and field gear over the six month field season. This ensures that Malagasy benefit immensely from their wildlife, while at the same time not throwing off local economies by putting large sums into the hands of a few. Food is locally purchased to further boost our impact on local communities.
Thank you so much for your help! I, the lemurs, and the future generations of Malagasy who will enjoy them as part of their natural heritage cannot thank you enough! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions (see link above) and look for updates from the field on Twitter (@brandonsemel) and Instagram (@kingolemurs) beginning in July!